A proposed development along the waterfront near the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre would be good news for the territory’s tourism sector and the economy.
It would also be built in a way that would continue to provide for local access to the trail running along the Yukon River downtown.
Those were among the arguments presented during a public hearing at Monday evening’s city council meeting.
The statements favoured a zoning amendment that would relax the maximum allowable height at 1181 and 1191 Front St.
Officials with the River’s Edge Partnership are asking the city to allow for a 20-metre height limit rather than the current limits of 15 m for the front of the street and 12.5 m for sections along the waterfront.
The project’s proponents are the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Chu Níikwän Corp. and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation’s Vuntut Gwitchin Limited Partnership.
They want to move forward with a 19-m, five-storey hotel planned to have “at least one additional” 13.5-m, 3 1/2-storey mixed-use building at the site.
As it’s proposed – with the relaxed height limit – the hotel would feature 100 rooms with a restaurant on the ground floor and underground parking.
Les Wilson, the business development project manager with Chu Níikwän, told council during the public hearing officials are currently working on their due diligence for the project.
The zoning amendment being sought could be a deciding factor in whether it goes ahead.
“It is a key piece of the puzzle,” Wilson said.
He stressed the intention to incorporate a strong Indigenous design and integrate the development with the trail.
The plan would see structures built perpendicular to the river to ensure there’s little impact to the trail, which residents could continue to access.
Ron Daub is the chief executive officer with the Vuntut Gwitchin Limited Partnership.
Under questioning from Coun. Dan Boyd, Daub noted that while the hotel is proposed at five storeys and needs the relaxation to the height restriction, other parts of the development don’t.
Part of the need for the 20-m height is to accommodate the proposed underground parking.
Coun. Betty Irwin expressed concerns around the loss of access to the trail.
Without the zoning change, Daub responded, the company would have to build a wider structure that might not be perpendicular to river.
Wilson and Daub stressed the positive partnership efforts and the benefits that the project could bring to the territory, noting a final investment decision will be made this fall.
Also speaking in favour of the proposal at Monday’s public hearing was Air North president Joe Sparling. He highlighted the Vuntut Limited Partnership’s involvement as a major shareholder in the airline.
Vuntut has been a great partner for the company, Sparling commented. The proposed hotel marks a major step forward for both First Nation development corporations partnering on the venture, he added.
Sparling said he hopes the development will not only benefit the corporations, but all of the Yukon.
There was no vocal opposition to the proposal.
Valerie Braga, the city’s manager of corporate services, told council that a number of written submissions also came in. Seven express opposition to the requested zoning change, while another nine state support.
A report on the public hearing will come forward to council next week, with second and third readings coming forward Sept. 24.