The area located behind the Whistle Bend Continuing Care Facility, bottom of photo, along Keno Way was discussed at city council on Nov. 18, as becoming the neighbourhood’s commercial centre. (Google Maps)

Whitehorse starts planning for Whistle Bend commercial zone

The new rules would be specifically for Keno Way

As the Yukon government gets set to sell the first commercial properties in Whistle Bend in early 2020, the City of Whitehorse is getting ready to outline exactly what those neighbourhood commercial buildings will look like and what types of businesses might be there.

City planning manager Mélodie Simard put forward a series of zoning regulations at Whitehorse council’s Nov. 18 meeting that would be specific to Whistle Bend’s commercial centre planned for properties along Keno Way in Whistle Bend.

Commercial lots will be available early next year, but no specific date has been scheduled and no decision has been made on whether the lots will be made available by lottery or tender, Energy, Mines and Resources spokesperson Rod Jacob said Nov. 19.

As Simard explained the proposed zoning regulations for the area are aimed at creating a “more urban design for Keno Way that is focused on pedestrian-friendly scale and uses that will create vitality along the street.”

The rules for that part of Whistle Bend would be slightly different than the rest of the city.

The changes establish hotels, scientific and cultural exhibits, and studios as principal uses while deleting recreation services and pet clinics as principal uses. There would also be a clause limiting residential units, offices and the like to being above the ground floor.

To allow for a greater scale of development on each lot, site coverage would increase from 70 per cent to 90 per cent of the lot.

Building height; however, would decrease from a maximum of 15 meters to 12 m with a requirement that upper street or town-square-facing storeys in a building be set back 1.5 m.

As Simard explained, the move aims to give the building a more textured facade and create more amenity space on the upper levels.

There would also be fewer parking spaces required than is typically required elsewhere “to provide additional development space on the lots and (support) the sustainable and walkable design of Whistle Bend.”

Stand-alone parking lots that could accommodate around 80 vehicles are planned just north of Keno Way, she said.

The change would see the requirement for Keno Way move from one parking stall per two dwelling units to one stall per 150 square meters of non-residential floor space.

Finally, properties that border the town square will have additional restrictions as the city aims “to provide for an interactive connection between the building frontages and the town square.”

Those restrictions would limit the first story to eating and drinking establishments, retail and personal service establishments with building access and facades to front both Keno Way and the town square. Any bars or restaurants in that area would require outdoor seating.

Questioned by Coun. Steve Roddick about how long it may be before a commercial centre in Whistle Bend is established, Simard noted it can be difficult to predict the future, but it’s hoped the development of the town square will make commercial enterprises there more viable.

As more residents move to the neighbourhood and/or work there, there is likely to be increased demand for services she said, adding the neighbourhood is already home to a major employer with the Yukon government opening the Whistle Bend Continuing Care Facility in 2018. Employees there don’t yet have a neighborhood spot to go for coffee or lunch.

Coun. Laura Cabott wondered if neighbourhood residents had been consulted on the zoning with Simard pointing to the overall design process for the neighborhood which had extensive consultation. The consultation for this specific zoning change would be through the public hearing process that would happen if council passes first reading Nov. 25.

Simard said if first reading is approved, she will ensure the information on the hearing is circulated to the Whistle Bend Community Association for distribution to residents.

The public hearing would be held at council’s Jan. 13 meeting with a report being presented Jan. 20 ahead of second and third reading Jan. 27.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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