The Yukon Council on Aging is calling on the City of Whitehorse to pause the proposed rezoning of the former Macaulay Lodge site in Riverdale.
Efforts by the organization are underway to convince the Yukon government that the land should be used for seniors’ housing, Frank Bachmier, a director with the Yukon Council on Aging, explained in a presentation to Whitehorse city council on Jan. 16.
Bachmier spoke during a public hearing on the proposed rezoning of 2 Klondike Rd.
The site housed the Macaulay Lodge continuing care facility before the building was shut down in 2019 and then demolished in 2022.
The territorial government, which owns the property, is asking for the site to be rezoned as a mixed-commercial lot that would allow for commercial operations on the ground floor with housing located above. The government plans to sell the property after it is rezoned.
First reading of the rezoning passed in November, triggering the public hearing.
During his presentation, Bachmier said the Yukon Council on Aging has written a number of letters to the Yukon government proposing the concept of seniors’ housing for the site.
“We’re ongoing trying to meet with them,” he said. “They don’t seem to have any time for us.”
Highlighting the need for seniors’ housing to be available through the Yukon Housing Corporation, he pointed to a long wait list and noted it would take at least two years to complete a project, given the planning and building time required. Long range planning is needed, he said, before proposing council delay its decision on zoning.
“It would give us a little more time to negotiate with the present government this year (to) get some seniors’ housing done,” Bachmier said.
Answering questions from council members, he also pointed out the property had been used for seniors’ housing as Macaulay Lodge for more than 50 years. While he acknowledged the need for the building to be taken down due to its condition, he argued the site should continue to be used for seniors’ housing.
Bachmier argued the government’s plans to have the site rezoned and sold will result in “high-end condos, to justify a profit for the operation.”
Also addressing council at the public hearing was Kristina Craig, executive director at the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition. She encouraged council members to consider housing needs in the city, pointing to affordability, housing supply and rent-geared-to-income housing as some of the larger challenges being faced right now.
“We’re not here to tell you or to tell Yukon Housing or to tell Yukon government that we have all the answers, but we do see needs,” she said. “And we see that affordability is a need; we see that there’s a valuable piece of land that could be used for housing for folks who are low income or facing other challenges. And we just hope that that’s part of the consideration that you give when you’re looking at the zoning changes and beyond that.”
A public hearing report is expected to come forward to council in February ahead of second and third reading.
If that is approved, the territorial government is anticipating putting the property out to tender in the spring.
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