A downtown property owner can proceed with plans to build a suite over his garage after Whitehorse city council gave second and third readings to a bylaw amendment at the regular council meeting on June 29.
Bylaw 2020-21, an amendment to the city’s zoning bylaw, reduces both the side yard and rear yard setback requires for 604 Black St.
The change reduces the size of the side setback by 30 centimetres from 1.5 metres to 1.2 m and the size of the rear setback by one m from three m to two m.
The garage structure is already in place, and the property owner indicated to council that relocating or rebuilding the structure to meet existing requirements would not have been feasible.
Coun. Dan Boyd voted in favour of the change, but warned the change would likely open up future similar requests for changes.
“Changing the side yard setbacks for this particular one is a bit of a dangerous precedent because that will become the standard for the setbacks in the whole downtown and maybe other places on the side yards,” Boyd said. “I do have, in the back of my mind, some reservation on this.”
Coun. Laura Cabott also voted for the amendment while also voicing concern about how this type of “spot zoning” meshes with the current Official Community Plan and work on a new OCP.
“This is an example of spot zoning, where it applies to one lot within a large zoned area,” Cabott said. “When you do spot zoning, as we all know, it can create unfairness because what it does is favour one owner over others.”
Cabbott asked administration what it would take to look into evaluating the pros and cons of a larger zoning amendment.
City manager Linda Rapp said the issue could be flagged for the next OCP workshop.
Coun. Steve Roddick also weighed in on the change, stressing that the actual changes were small — 30 cm and one m respectively — and that this was a concrete thing council could do to improve the city’s housing situation.
“If there are a number of other people who may also be considering turning their garages — which are not quite in compliance with these same setbacks — into suites, that seems like a good thing for the city,” Roddick said. “If council can minimize costs in doing so by allowing them to build on top of those garages instead of tearing them down and building new ones, then we can contribute to (lowering the) cost of housing in the city as well. I see this as a win-win.”
The bylaw received first reading on May 11, public notice was made on May 15 and May 22, and a public hearing was held on June 15.
The only submission received at the public hearing was from the owner, Kurt Fraser, in favour of the amendment.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org