Whitehorse Daily Star

Help keep Macaulay Lodge site for seniors, city is urged

City council has again heard from residents that the site of the former Macaulay Lodge at 2 Klondike Rd. should be used to provide more housing for seniors.

By Chuck Tobin on March 17, 2023

City council has again heard from residents that the site of the former Macaulay Lodge at 2 Klondike Rd. should be used to provide more housing for seniors.

Three men spoke to council at its meeting Monday during a second public hearing into the application by the Yukon government to rezone the five lots that make up 2 Klondike from Public Service to modified Comprehensive Neighbourhood Commercial.

The new zoning requires that commercial uses are located on the ground floor with residential uses above.

The Yukon government is planning to sell the property for development once rezoning has been completed.

The rezoning application received first reading in late November 2022 and the first public hearing was held on Jan. 16. Council then directed that a second public hearing be held.

Frank Bachmier said he was at Monday’s meeting to represent the Yukon Council on Aging, just as he was when he appeared at the first public hearing in January.

There are almost 300 seniors on the wait list for housing, Bachmier told council.

Some of them have been waiting five years, and there’s been no housing built in Whitehorse for seniors in more than 10 years, he said.

He added they seem to think commercial property is a priority over housing for seniors.

Bachmier said he talked to five businesses in the Riverdale area. None of them were consulted, he said.

They are just coming out of COVID and all of them are losing money, he said.

Bachmier said putting another five businesses in the subdivision would cause everybody to go broke.

Riverdale is completely over-subscribed as far as commercial properties go, he said.

But Riverdale, Bachmier emphasized, is tapped out as far as providing access to new housing.

For the many seniors living on the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security benefits – seniors who do not have the luxury of a government pension plan – paying market rents of a $1,000 a month or more leaves them with nothing to live on, he told council.

Bachmier said he wrote to the premier and the housing minister – but only received a call back from a bureaucrat indicating the government is proceeding as planned.

In his address to council Monday night, Marcel Gareau said he’s lived on Klondike Road for 35 years. He’s always enjoyed older people walking on the street – and then the government tore down Macaulay in 2022, he noted.

Gareau said he does not want to see commercial development at all.

“I would like to see another old folks’ home,” he said, adding he supports everything Bachmier had to say.

“Senior people are the people that built this nation, and they deserve respect,” he said.

Ian Robertson, a senior citizen who’s worked as a land use planner in Whitehorse for decades, said he too opposes the use of the Macaulay Lodge site for commercial purposes for the same reasons that were outlined by Bachmier and Gareau.

The government’s rezoning application is incomplete, with insufficient information, as it does not lay out the rationale for the land sale to the private sector, he told council.

Robertson said the lack of information and justification raises a red flag, perhaps suggesting a hidden agenda.

The first principle in planning, he said, says land should be used for its highest and best use.

“Macaulay Lodge met that criteria for 50 years.” he said. (The former lodge opened in 1969.)

He said seniors need affordable housing. They need choices, and those choices change over time and can be limited by savings, retirement income and health, he pointed out.

Seniors may come to decide they can no longer afford their own home, and that they need to seek alternate housing, Robertson said.

“Macaulay really served that population well.”

He suggested a developer who has to purchase the land cannot possibly build housing as inexpensively as the government, which already owns the land.

In a letter to council on Monday, Robertson writes: “... if sale to the private sector is inevitable, what is in the best interest of Whitehorse citizens and where is the rationale supporting the proposed zoning choice?

“There are too many unanswered questions, and it makes no sense for council to surrender its ability to influence the nature and quality of what is built there.

“Yukon provides no business case to support the rezoning request which would allow city staff and the public sufficient information to properly assess the validity and consequences of the rezoning request.”

Robertson added, “Whitehorse city council should define what it wants to see and work with the territorial government to hold a public design competition spelling out the evaluation criteria proponents are required to meet.

“Why constrain proponents by changing the zoning that contains no evidence of market demand or assessment of need for repurposing the property.?

“How does selling public property in this location advance affordability?”

Robertson added, “Please dismiss the Yukon Government rezoning request. The intent is only to expedite the sale of this important piece of public property. It is premature, the application incomplete, and not in the public interest.

“Advise the Yukon government that the city council prefers to see the property redeveloped for its present purpose: continued senior citizen housing.”

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