Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

VARIOUS VERDICTS – Members of city council vote separately Tuesday evening on which areas to add residential lots to.

‘NIMBYism is alive and well here in Whitehorse’

Infill plans are off the table for two sites the city was considering adding residential lots to.

By Stephanie Waddell on November 16, 2017

Infill plans are off the table for two sites the city was considering adding residential lots to.

On Tuesday, council voted against rezoning two of seven sites it was proposing to change to residential zones for infill, mainly in country residential neighbourhoods.

The infill concepts have come forward as part of the city’s efforts to increase land available for housing and get more lots on the market.

Along with the sites that were proposed for rezoning are a number of urban areas already with the proper zoning in place to allow for infill.

A number of residents in areas up for rezoning were vocal in their opposition to infill in their neighbourhoods.

Tuesday’s vote means the five sites that will be rezoned include:

• a 5.1 hectare site on Couch Road from Parks and Recreation (PR) to Country Residential 1 (RC1);

• a 3.2 ha site on Talus Drive from PR, Greenbelt (PG) and Environmental Protection (PE) to RC1;

• a 2.71 ha area on Fireweed Drive from PG to RC1;

• a 2.08 ha area on Salmon Trail from Future Planning (FP) to RC1; and

• a 0.38 ha section on Magpie Road from Neighbourhood Commercial (CN) to Restricted Residential (RR).

The two sites set to keep their zoning include a 2.03 ha area zoned PE on Talus Drive and a 3.16 ha area zoned PG on Fireweed Drive.

Council members voted on the rezoning for each site separately.

The closest vote on an individual site was the 4-3 vote that saw council turn down the proposed rezoning of the 2.3 hectare piece of land on Talus Drive.

Mayor Dan Curtis and councillors Rob Fendrick and Roslyn Woodcock were defeated in their votes in favour of the rezoning.

Curtis and Fendrick were also the only two to vote in favour of the 3.16 ha piece of land on Fireweed Drive zoned as Greenbelt (PG).

Rental vacancy

Coun. Roslyn Woodcock was the first to speak on the overall plans for infill. She stressed the need for housing stock in the city, highlighting the rental vacancy rate of less than two per cent.

“We need more options across the housing spectrum,” Woodcock said.

Council knew that going into the process there would be resistance from residents in neighbourhoods impacted, she noted.

Given the need to expand the supply of housing, the city was clear that if, after a technical assessment and public input the sites were feasible for development, infill would proceed.

Infill, Woodcock said, is not a substantial solution to increasing the housing stock in the city, but it is part of a larger effort.

“And every bit counts,” she continued, citing survey results showing that overall, the community supports adding development to existing areas.

Curtis voted in favour of all the rezoning proposals. He stated his “utmost faith” that administration had done its work in finding appropriate locations for infill.

He acknowledged too though that any proposed additional development in existing neighbourhoods will be controversial.

“Infill is always a grave concern,” he told reporters after the meeting. “It’s a hard thing to p--s off your neighbours.”

Curtis pointed out the work has been done to ensure development can happen on the sites. He also argued that the infill can free up other housing options as the country residential lots are purchased.

Of the numerous arguments made against adding lots to existing country residential neighbourhoods, the mayor commented: “NIMBYism is alive and well here in Whitehorse.”

Curtis also pointed out that development of various areas around the city will likely continue into the future.

The Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Ta’an Kwäch’än Council each have settlement land they may choose to use for development, he pointed out.

While he supported each of the seven zoning changes, the decision wasn’t as clear-cut for other council members.

As Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu commented: “There’s got to be some give and take.”

She was a part of the vote which defeated the rezoning of 2.03 hectares on Talus Drive from Environmental Protection to Country Residential 1 as well as the vote which defeated the rezoning of 3.16 ha on Fireweed Drive from Greenbelt to Country Residential 1.

Environmental protection

Of the Talus site, Curteanu noted it’s part of a larger area zoned as Environmental Protection, and council had heard from a delegate who looked into the zoning before building his family’s home. The house had been placed to overlook the area based on that zoning.

“I think it was a reasonable conclusion,” she said of the property owner’s decision.

Meanwhile, on the Fireweed Drive rezoning she voted against, Curteanu highlighted the “significant trail usage” in the area where development would happen.

She argued it’s unlikely those trails could be rerouted, unlike in other areas.

Coun. Dan Boyd also varied his vote by area, voting against the two zoning changes that came forward for Fireweed Drive.

He highlighted the significant trail usage in the area and concerns for residents, noting the significance of the remaining portion of the old Carcross Road now used as a trail.

Samson Hartland and Betty Irwin were the only two councillors to vote against the final two readings after the rezoning of the two sites were taken off the table.

Hartland recognized the demand for country residential lots, but argued infill is not the way to go in creating those lots.

Rather, he said, the city should be taking the time to properly plan how and where those lots can be provided without disrupting neighbourhoods that have already been established.

Infill, Hartland argued, is like putting a Band-aid on a massive wound.

Irwin took issue with the uncertainty rezoning creates for property owners.

Residents who buy property need to be able to assume that there won’t be any massive changes coming to the area for a number of years.

The rest of council voted in favour of the final two readings of the bylaw allowing the rezoning of the five sites that were approved.

Comments (17)

Up 11 Down 4

High-End on Nov 22, 2017 at 8:57 am

Yes, new CR could be built.

BUT, be aware that unless the planners, regulators, engineers and big contractors are reined in, lots will likely price in the $300K range to cover costs. Add in a well, septic, driveway and power hookups and be closer to $38OK before a nail is hit. A 2000 sq ft family home @ $200 and a little landscaping and you're at $800K.

You need some high-end incomes and equity to pay for that.

Should that market really be the priority when there is such an evident need to facilitate affordable homes for middle class working families, let alone the working poor?

Up 20 Down 8

City Councillor on Nov 21, 2017 at 3:04 pm

I am not using my name because there is bullying and vindictive behaviour even on city council.

People who live in Mary Lake should be able to maintain their lifestyle. There are other areas within the city that could be developed to provide country residential sub-divisions. I wish we could step back and vote again and set aside more areas as greenspace and parkland.

Finger pointing and name calling was done to pander to voters in the next city election and its unfair to the Mary Lake residents. I know the area very well. We can do better, we are better than this.

Up 9 Down 11

Salar on Nov 21, 2017 at 10:12 am

Jaynew....thats another a good tactic by nimbys to delay development....delay making decisions for years....development can happen and everybody can have whatever feeling they want about it by whatever process.

Up 12 Down 3

ProScience Greenie on Nov 21, 2017 at 9:55 am

Green spaces are awesome as they are full of birds and small critters and allow all animals to be able to travel through from one area to the other. Great spots for bird watching or a simple stroll to enjoy the wilderness (in a wilderness city btw). And it helps kids keep in touch with nature. Once a green space is ripped up so the real estate and developers and their political and bureaucrat minions can make quick cash they're gone forever. The solution is simple, build more C.R. subdivisions with lots of green spaces. That's what makes CoW a true wilderness city, not big box stores, condos and packed big city subdivisions.

Are you against the development of new C.R. subdivisions Salar? I don't mean to be cheeky but if not, is it for NIMBY reasons? I'm not really on the side of the property owners but I do cringe seeing so many pretty little green spaces ripped up.

Up 15 Down 2

Jayne W on Nov 20, 2017 at 10:06 am

@Salar, ask most of the Councilors how they view the OCP at this moment. They do treat the OCP as a document to follow, for now. Ask the City employee having to do a review on this whole project what arguments can be made because of the OCP. They can change it and I am sure the next one sometime in 2018, they are going to make sure everything is open everywhere to do what they want. So that is when voters need to get involved and also approach council members to see what their vision is for future housing. This past little band aid, that was very time consuming and very costly....produced only 11 CR properties, and it is not over yet. Not very good planning at all, had they chose CR areas that were already zoned, you would be having a larger selection right now, without a debate from anyone.

Up 15 Down 4

Concerned on Nov 20, 2017 at 9:22 am

For the Talus lots, it's less NIMBY and more so that the land is essential marsh with multiple creeks running through it. Multiple lots on Talus changed hands several times because people bankrupted themselves purchasing dump truck loads of fill to mitigate the issue. It seems totally irresponsible for the city to rezone those lots considering what the cost to the owner will be. With no guarantee of success.

Up 9 Down 22

Yukoner81 on Nov 19, 2017 at 11:21 pm

I was never a Dan Curtis supporter before, but seeing him take on all these entitled NIMBY types......he is quickly winning me over! Well done sir. Shame on the councillors who don't have the same backbone.

Up 14 Down 6

CJ on Nov 19, 2017 at 9:08 pm

@Salar, OCP designations might not last forever, but neither do parks and trails they get paved over routinely and certainly not with spot zoning. How much development has New York City done in Central Park? Virtually none. To think of just one reason, I doubt if New Yorkers are as easily bullied by the name-calling that passes as debate in less sophisticated towns. The suburb I grew up in is still recognizable to me, and I have to say, much of Whitehorse isn't anymore. I don't think developers have too much to complain about here, actually, including a fully staffed planning department that seems at loose ends to find enough to keep them busy.

I don't live in these areas, but I have been here a long time and I think city council should count its blessings that it has a population that's deeply rooted enough to care about what's going on around them.

As for bears -- that's just the point. One of the reasons there's more conflict is they're still in their habitat, but now there's houses there.

Up 16 Down 21

Salar on Nov 18, 2017 at 1:13 pm

The OCP is a plan...not fixed forever, but for now, so orderly development has a chance. It isn't there for folks to wave around and cry oh my there goes my life, it got changed.
Honestly do folks in these areas believe they are the caretakers of the land around them? There needs to be an understanding that ownership has its benefits but not absolute priviledge. And waving around selfish decrees in defense of these nimby ideas is childish...I suppose we're protecting the greenspace so more bears can find your garbage can and someone else can shoot it for you. Yeah that's what it is.
Good on you Council for opening these lots up...even if some if you you play both sides and act so concerned about folks who are in opposition. We don't need politicians who are afraid to do the right thing.

Up 17 Down 15

steve on Nov 17, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Nice to know councilors will vote for something that won't affect them or their friends. People bought because they understood that area would be protected. So much for that belief.

Up 38 Down 2

Ralph on Nov 17, 2017 at 12:31 pm

" I'm ok with breaking this ocp designation because....." " I'm not ok with breaking this ocp designation because" " I'm gonna vote yes to this one and no to this one" "I know someone who lives over here" " I know someone who lives over there" " hey I'm a councillor we can make rules as we please" you wanna talk about uncertainty, there it is, ocp means nothing.

Up 22 Down 8

Jayne W on Nov 17, 2017 at 11:15 am

When I look at this picture for this article, all I can think of is someone asking "Everyone raise their hand who should not be elected next election." I think most of Council found a happy medium on this issue and when it arises next time a better approach might be taken.

Up 44 Down 6

ProScience Greenie on Nov 17, 2017 at 9:57 am

The demand for country residential and one acre or so sized lots is big and the simple solution is to create a few more new subdivisions. It's a myth that there is no land available and the lots do not need to be fully developed so just get at it and make it happen.

Up 30 Down 1

Cactus Face Elmer on Nov 16, 2017 at 4:42 pm

"PFFFFT - NIMBYism is alive and well" in EVERY city in North America

Up 45 Down 15

Mike Miles on Nov 16, 2017 at 4:34 pm

"Hartland recognized the demand for country residential lots, but argued infill is not the way to go in creating those lots.

Rather, he said, the city should be taking the time to properly plan how and where those lots can be provided without disrupting neighbourhoods that have already been established."

That was very articulate and well reasoned Samson- please consider running for mayor.

Up 40 Down 10

Reality check on Nov 16, 2017 at 4:26 pm

"Coun. Roslyn Woodcock was the first to speak on the overall plans for infill. She stressed the need for housing stock in the city, highlighting the rental vacancy rate of less than two per cent.

“We need more options across the housing spectrum,” Woodcock said"...

What have these unbelievably ignorant decisions to do with the rental market? These infill lots will create some more spaces for the $ 450000 ad up single family homes which are only affordable for the "upper class".

In which world lives the council these days?
Time to get out of the wardrobe and face the real world and problems in this city...

Up 32 Down 15

Al Atlintino on Nov 16, 2017 at 4:04 pm

It's more than a little offensive to have our mayor refer to a sincere desire to protect green spaces, parks and areas zoned as Environmental Protection as NIMBYism.

Thank you so much to the city councillors who understand the need to protect these areas!

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