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Whitehorse waterfront hotel project seeks height limit increase

‘Now we approach Whitehorse’s crown jewel, the waterfront’
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The building complex at 1191 Front St. in Whitehorse on Aug. 1. City administration brought forward a recommendation to allow for an amendment granting a building height limit increase from 15 meters to 20 meters for a new hotel and mixed-use development at 1181 and 1191 Front St. during the July 30 standing committees meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

At least one member of Whitehorse City Council is concerned about a potential building height increase to a new waterfront development.

At the July 30 standing committees meeting, city administration brought forward a recommendation to allow for an amendment granting a building height limit increase from 15 meters to 20 meters for a new hotel and mixed-use development at 1181 and 1191 Front St.

Under the official community plan (OCP) for the City of Whitehorse, the maximum allowable height for downtown buildings is 25 meters, subject to zoning. In general in the city, building height limits decrease the closer they get to the river.

City planner Kinden Kosick told council the proposed 100-room hotel would stand five storeys, or 19 meters. In addition to hotel rooms, the building would include a restaurant.

Kosick said the proposal meets the OCP land use designation, which aims to encourage a mix of multiple housing, retail, restaurants, and more.

He said the property is being developed by River’s Edge Partnership Ltd., a company that’s majority owned by the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.

There is currently one three-storey mixed-use building on the property.

River’s Edge has said it needs the height increase for the new development to ensure financial feasibility, and to address parking issues. Kosick said parking would be underground or at-grade.

Kosick also said River’s Edge has done a shadow analysis to determine that shadows will fall primarily on buildings to the north of the hotel, as well as on the waterfront trail.

Coun. Samson Hartland said he’s excited about the development, but is less concerned with shadow allowances than he is about the building’s impact on viewscapes.

“I know that, you know, height limits have been a bone of contention ever since I was previously on council and now we approach Whitehorse’s crown jewel, the waterfront,” he said.

“A lot of people talk about why they come to Whitehorse, what makes it unique, what draws people to the waterfront. It’s being able to see it.”

He asked what would happen if property owners in zones behind the development asked for similar exceptions in order to increase their lower thresholds.

“I’m sure you get where I’m going with this,” said Hartland.

“If council were to approve this zoning amendment we would probably review the existing heights in the area as part of an upcoming zoning amendment in the zoning bylaw rewrite following the OCP review” said Kosick.

The issue will come back for first reading on August 6.

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com