Plans for the Yukon Breeze Sailing Society to put in place three additional shipping containers and fence part of the site it uses on Schwatka Lake are washed up for now, following a 4-3 vote by Whitehorse city council at its June 13 meeting.
Councillors Dan Boyd, Kirk Cameron, Jocelyn Curteanu and Mayor Laura Cabott voted in favour of turning down the conditional use application the sailing society had brought forward to add the containers and fencing, while councillors Michelle Friesen, Mellisa Murray and Ted Laking voted against turning it down.
The vote came after significant discussion among council over the application the sailing group had brought forward in May.
Yukon Breeze secretary Ben Hancock explained to council in May the organization received grants through the Community Development Fund and Lotteries Yukon to purchase new boats this year and was asking for the containers and fencing to accommodate and store the new purchases.
He noted at the time the containers would be painted with murals to blend in with the treed surroundings in the area and highlighted the organization’s plans to provide more and improved programming with the new boats. The group offers a number of lessons and sailing programs (including summer day camps).
Much of council’s lengthy discussion ahead of the vote focussed on the benefits of recreational programming, such as that offered by Yukon Breeze, as well as the impact of having large shipping containers along the shoreline and fencing off land that’s for public use (the group has held a license of occupation with the Yukon government to use the site since 2015).
Six submissions offered up during a public input session were all opposed to the proposal, citing the aesthetic impact of having shipping containers at the lake site, parking issues and the exclusive use of public land.
“The public has been clear on this,” Cabott said.
The mayor acknowledged that while the group delivers a lot of positive programming, the proposal would be a significant shift in the look and feel of the area. An additional three shipping containers (there are already two on the site) doesn’t fit into the area that’s meant to be a natural setting, she said.
Cabott suggested the group work to come up with an idea for a storage facility that would be a better fit for the surroundings and bring that back to the city as a conditional use application in the future.
While Coun. Laking suggested another round of public input be held, it was noted by city officials the input process typically sees only one such session held to gain feedback ahead of council’s decision.
Laking had also suggested allowing for fewer shipping containers than the three proposed, but it was pointed out the club could come back with a different proposal to be considered if they choose, as conditional use applications are considered based on the specifics given in each proposal (in this case adding three shipping containers, also known as C-cans, and a fence).
Friesen noted her agreement, adding one additional C-can on the site could be a compromise for this year and there could be a condition that it be moved at the end of the season. She also highlighted the largely volunteer organization’s work to bring recreational opportunities to the city, noting volunteers’ time is valuable and should be focused on delivering recreation.
“It’s unfortunate that the time has been spent on this process for it to be at a place now where the recommendation is to deny,” Friesen said ahead of the vote.
Meanwhile, Cameron suggested as work to draft a new Official Community Plan is winding down, efforts need to be made to consider how to deal with such developments on Schwatka Lake.
“I think we need to really spend some time concentrating on looking at this matter and find a good solution that will be acceptable to, not just the sailing community, but for other multi-users of that wonderful little gem in our city,” he said. “So for that reason, I, too, am going to vote in favor of the recommendation to not allow the additional C-cans but I think we need as part of the OCP to really spend some time thinking through how we want to treat that lake.”
In a June 16 written statement responding to questions from the News, the sailing society said while it is disappointed with the vote, the society’s board of directors will respect council’s decision.
“A positive decision would have allowed us to increase secure boat storage, protect our newly acquired assets and improve operational efficiencies at the site on Schwatka Lake,” it was noted.
The society went on to note the purchase of the new boats and the territorial funding stating it is pleased to increase programming, but with that comes the need for increased secure storage at the site.
The proposed plan did not impede access to trails and the process did not allow for potential alternatives to be considered or discussed, the society said, going on to address the reasons a more permanent structure was not contemplated.
“Our license of occupation does not permit us to build a permanent structure on our site, which restricts our storage options to moveable structures,” the society said. “This is why we proposed placing additional shipping containers at our site. Shipping containers are also a much more cost-effective solution, compared to the cost of building a permanent structure.
“YBSS (Yukon Breeze) wants a solution where we can safely store our boats and run our operations while balancing the aesthetic concerns voiced by the city and some members of the public. As a volunteer board, the lengthy and expensive application process for amending our license is prohibitive and difficult to navigate. We hope to be able to work collaboratively with the city to find a solution that suits the needs of our society and addresses their concerns.”
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org