Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 29, 2013

Wilderness areas to be studied for housing potential

It took some convincing, but city councillor Kirk Cameron eventually joined the rest of council Monday evening in voting in favour of going ahead with contribution agreements with the Yukon government.

By Stephanie Waddell on January 29, 2013 at 3:54 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Phillip Fitzgerald and Kirk Cameron

It took some convincing, but city councillor Kirk Cameron eventually joined the rest of council Monday evening in voting in favour of going ahead with contribution agreements with the Yukon government.

The decision will see long-term studies consider the possibility of development along Long Lake Road and in the McLean Lake area.

Cameron voted in favour of the two studies, which will consider whether development is even possible.

Before voting, however,  Cameron stressed the need to deal with the more immediate need for affordable housing.

He argued that means the city should focus on “the big four” when it comes to development:  Downtown South; infill; the former tank farm, which is privately owned; and working with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Ta’an Kwachan Council on potential developments that could happen on their lands.

Cameron then expressed his worry that the two long-term studies could distract from the more immediate priorities.

Coun. Betty Irwin also argued the city should be looking at sites for development within the urban boundary and working with First Nations rather than going so far from the city’s current urban boundary.

“This could be very, very contentious,” she warned.

Mike Gau, the director of development services for the city, informed council that although the areas closer to the city core are part of more short-term plans, the work on the Long Lake Road and McLean Lake areas would be long-term.

The geo-technical work, for example, could take a couple of years.

If development even happens, it could be more than two decades away, he noted.

The short-term priority, he said, would be on infill and the like.

As Coun. John Streicker said, this work comes out of the Official Community Plan. It will give the city a good look at the areas and whether they can even be developed. It could also give a sense of where the community is on it.

“And for that, I think, it’s worth it,” he said, after observing the city has to look at both the short and long term.

The planning department has its short-term work in-hand, said Coun. Mike Gladish, adding that it can’t lose site of the long-range work either.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu wondered how the work would impact city planning staff.

As Gau pointed out, the contribution agreements the city has had with the Yukon government on various projects like Whistle Bend has essentially paid for one staffer over the last few years.

If the city didn’t have such agreements (in this case, each agreement is worth $300,000), it would likely have to lay off that position.

Coun. Dave Stockdale didn’t hesitate in stating his support. He said it’s part of the city’s growth strategy, and there are provisions in the land development protocol the city has with the territory for public consultations on that.

“We do have a lot of control over this part of the process,” he said.

Putting all the “eggs in one basket” through private development or working with First Nations on potential developments is “all well and good,” Stockdale said, but the city could end up with “egg on its face.”

Earlier in the meeting, when questioned about the consultation by Streicker, Gau noted the contribution agreement speaks to
consultation with the two First Nations.

“That would be automatic and included in this work,” Gau said.

A project plan would need to be worked out for general public consultation, he added, but there is a section in the agreement that includes consultation where applicable.

Gau also noted this work would largely be made up of technical studies on the areas.

In stating their agreement with it, council members stressed that it doesn’t commit the city to anything beyond studying the area.

It will do no harm, Curteanu said, to find out what’s in the two areas.

Streicker noted this is a distinct project to see if there is potential for development in the area.

If there is, the city may go on to a discussion in the future about whether development will happen there, but that would be a separate decision.

His vote, Streicker said, is to assess the potential.

It’s important for the city to do its due diligence and see if development is even viable in the Long Lake Road and McLean Lake areas, said Mayor Dan Curtis.

He agrees with the points already made during council discussion, he added.

That discussion was enough to also convince Cameron, who went on to praise the good discussion that happened around the council table.

He cautioned though he would continue to press city staff on where work is on the “big four” because he doesn’t want to lose sight of the city’s short-term needs.

Early in the meeting, Phillip Fitzgerald, who chairs the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, voiced its support for the studies, noting the shortage of affordable housing options.

The lack of choice makes it difficult for businesses to attract staff to the community, he said, adding the chamber supports any move that alleviates the gap in the housing market.

CommentsAdd a comment

Jackie Ward

Jan 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm

This really shows the vision of the people running this town. No one is buying Whistle Bend. Why are you even looking into this? Have you seen the traffic in Riverdale? Too bad common sense isn’t a job requirement anymore. Too bad your big expensive university’s don’t teach critical thinking skills.  Better hurry and jump on that plane for more useless meetings down south eh guys. Keeping up that Bev tradition nicely.  What a waste of our money.  I hope our property taxes go up again this year. I can hardly wait to pay more and more, for less and less of everything.

Jim

Jan 30, 2013 at 2:23 am

How is it that the City of Whitehorse is only just getting around to looking at these areas?  I mean City should have been on this years ago….

Titix

Jan 30, 2013 at 10:30 am

Phillip Fitzgerald did voice its support for the studies, but he’s also COO and CFO of Northern Vision Development LP. I think that deserves to be noticed !

Atom

Jan 30, 2013 at 9:26 pm

No matter what the studies come up with one can be assured it will be offensive to the greenies and therefore be another huge waste of public funds (PC D for example).
It won’t be surprising if there are gopher condos and gopher crossings (culverts) as suggested mitigations for any development to appease the same groups.
But be consoled, there are the 400K houses in Riverdale and the table top lots in Whistlebend as alternatives.

north_of_60

Jan 30, 2013 at 10:50 pm

” contribution agreements the city has had with the Yukon government on various projects like Whistle Bend has essentially paid for one staffer over the last few years. If the city didn’t have such agreements (in this case, each agreement is worth $300,000), it would likely have to lay off that position. “

Ah, now we see the real reason.  They want more money for the extra staff person they hired to do the Wasteland Bend fiasco.  Perhaps it would be better to let that person go find a real job in the private sector.  Their questionable talents won’t be needed by the CoW for quite some time.

Jennifer Smith

Jan 31, 2013 at 12:20 pm

It really doesn’t make sense to be to be advertising Whitehorse as a ‘wilderness’ city when we aren’t going to have any wilderness left.  The Long Lake area should be left for everyone to enjoy, not just a select few that will be able to afford the $200,000 lots that will go in there.

Groucho d'North

Feb 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm

The socially stylish preserve the green spaces anti-development movement appears to have evolved past the NIMBY stage and I fear is now crossing into the BANANA phase: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.
And my rural property continues to increase in value at an alarming rate.
If Whistlebend is the cure for Whitehorse’s residential land shortage, it is a complete and qualified failure. Cookie-cutter houses all lined up in neat tidy rows like all the new age subdivision developments down south. That’s not what people want to buy in the “Wilderness City”

north_of_60

Feb 4, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Whistle Bend wasn’t supposed to be like that, but it turned into what it is because of monumental screw-ups by the so-called ‘planners’ and the incompetent engineers from outside they hired.  It’s too bad we don’t have any investigative journalists to expose the truth.

Dustin

Feb 6, 2013 at 12:49 am

You lot all complained when housing prices inflated due to next to no land available to build in now that it is there you yell and stomp because it is not as you idealized it in your own fantasy world.

Whistle Bend had to, due to the nature of the area, be changed by moving many truckloads of fill to change the slope of the land so that our precious basements would not flood.

It is unfortunate that this small issue got overlooked in the planning stage but have any of you any idea how difficult it is to design a neighborhood such as this from the ground up?

The vegetation will grow back and if you actually jump on board and plant some trees yourself you can be part of the solution instead of a cynic for the problem…

north_of_60

Feb 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Not quite true Dustin. 

The trees were cut down and very expensive fill brought in because the sewage system wasn’t engineered correctly and the sewer lines ended up above grade.
So called ‘planners’ screwed-up and should be held accountable, but of course that never happens in the Yukon.  Instead our tax dollars are used to keep incompetents on staff to plan the next mistake.

north_of_60

Feb 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Dustin is misinformed.  It’s too bad the newspapers won’t uncover the truth.  But hey, it’s the Yukon.

Anonymous

Feb 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I’ve lived in the Yukon for 20 years and in all honesty we need to see more developments in the down town core similar to Mah’s Point. If people would open their eyes and forget about “small town charm” (which really translates to a run down city core with wasted space not being used) we could continue to preserve our green spaces (which are the reason most of us live here in the first place) while increasing housing availability. More downtown living may also assist the traffic issues as more and more people could bike or walk to and from work.

If we build up instead of out we can continue to enjoy vast green areas close to home while being able to actually have a home at the same time.

Jennifer Smith

Feb 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hey, Dustin.  I don’t know how long you’ve been here, but Granger was developed about 20 years ago.  Why don’t you go and check out how big the trees are on their lawns.  Shrubs more like.  It takes about 100 years to grow a good sized tree here.  Seems to make sense not to cut them down in the first place.

stan rogers

Feb 7, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Whse is not a Wilderness City.
Little has been done to protect special areas. The people with the wisdom to want to protect these areas have to battle city planners and hostile elected officials. I am hoping that this will change with the new Mayor and council.

Do not get me started about the way the city has allowed ATVs and skidoos to tear up the city and surrounding areas up. In many areas the damage done is like ecological vandalism. Its sad really.
Our city should send out a few forward thinking representatives like John Striker out to see cities of comparable size that have actually done things correctly. It seems like the learning curve here is inadequate to protect special areas.

Atom

Feb 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Stan…there is a lot of room within the City of Whitehorse boundaries for housing development and it would be ridiculous to say ‘go develop outside of that’. The green bunch have wasted enough dollars protesting development here.
And don’t ask real Yukoners to swallow your anti ATV drivel anymore.

Dustin

Feb 7, 2013 at 8:38 pm

I’ve lived here all my life, If you say those trees in Grainger are shrubs I’ll need to get my eyes checked…
Perhaps I am somewhat misinformed then. However the designers probably decided that the lesser of two costly evils was to remove the trees and bring in fill rather than tear down the sewage system.

I am sure that the engineers did their best to take everything into consideration when planning the new neighborhood but give them a break. Yes the trees if brought in as seedlings will take years to grow back but why start with seedlings?
Maybe they will put in more vegetation next summer. This development still has along way to go to become finished.

Anyway why does it matter to you guys your obviously not gonna move there so stop complaining.

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