Whitehorse Daily Star

Motorcycle association rolls closer toward lease

The Yukon Cross Country Motorcycle Association

By Stephanie Waddell on May 9, 2017

The Yukon Cross Country Motorcycle Association is closer to having a lease in place to legitimize the use of a popular dirt bike area off Robert Service Way.

In a 4-1 vote Monday night, council approved the first two readings of a 10-year lease agreement for the eight-hectare site.

Coun. Betty Irwin was the only member of council to vote against the lease, though councillors Dan Boyd and Samson Hartland were absent from the meeting and thus did not vote.

The group is seeking the lease as well as council’s approval of its conditional use application for the site.

While Irwin voted against the lease, she remained clear her issue with it was largely around the 10-year period for the lease.

The agreement is coming forward as the city is in the midst of a planning study for the Robert Service Way area, which could impact planned uses of property there.

The proposed lease includes a clause that would allow the city to terminate the agreement, and the association is aware of the study and that the lease could be terminated. However, Irwin argued, it would still be difficult to alter or change anything.

She also pointed out the difficulty there would be for the city to enforce its ATV bylaw at events the group may host there, and the restrictions the motorcycle group would have in following the bylaw and Motor Vehicles Act on the site.

That would mean those under the age of 16 couldn’t participate in the events.

Irwin also said she just doesn’t feel it’s an appropriate location; that there are other sites that could be used.

She has said previously she would prefer to have a different agreement that would allow the group to use the site temporarily while the study is underway and/or another site is located for the group.

Coun. Rob Fendrick admitted he was a “little on the fence” on the issue.

He acknowledged the issues brought forward by Irwin as well as three delegates who spoke out against approving the conditional use application, citing issues around noise, potential conflicts with other non-motorized uses and so on.

Fendrick also noted the group’s plans for programming and potential proposed changes to the ATV bylaw that could allow for the group to offer education to younger riders on safe riding.

He said he hopes that efforts will be made to find another site for the group’s activities, but that for now, he would vote in favour of the lease.

Meanwhile, Mayor Dan Curtis pointed out the site has been used by riders for many years – since the 1970s, according to the association.

Trees around the site act as a buffer and, he noted that living in Riverdale, he has not heard noise from the site over the years.

Council heard complaints about potential noise, conflicts and the impact of the Robert Service Way study from three delegates.

It also heard from the association, which noted the site’s historical use for dirt bike and off-road vehicles.

The group also noted:

• the isolation from residential areas;

• the parking availability, which allows riders to transport their bikes on their vehicles to the site, park and then ride in an area designated for riding; and

• its plans to post signs and offer education around safe riding.

Already, people ride there just about every day in addition to the scheduled events that happen.

Council is set to vote on the conditional use application next week as well as third reading on the proposed lease.

Comments (9)

Up 3 Down 2

Anie on May 11, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Stanley Miller there are impediments to developing low cost housing at that
site. First, there are no services. The cost of extending sewer/water to that area would not be reasonable, particularly when there are other places with services. Second, putting a large number of social or low cost housing units into one large space creates a ghetto effect. Surely those who need help deserve the dignity of living in typically mixed neighbourhoods.

As to the issue at hand, I don't live in an area that would be affected by the noise. Those that do need to be heard - no pun intended. I hope there is a reasonable compromise.

Up 11 Down 2

to Stanley on May 11, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Stanley Miller, it is a very rare occurence that anyone 'makes their way' to the track on their bike, let alone a kid under the age of 16.

The lot is a snow dump in the winter just to the south of the track itself. Not sure how perfect this would be for low income housing (beep-beep-beep). It is in fact a property which has a good use for the city in the winter. Also, the 737's taking off and flying over to land at the airport just up the hill which surrounds the track, is probably a bit of a damper for housing.

This spot has been used for 40 years by dirt bike riders. All of a sudden there are problems with that? What's happening is that the city councillors are removing the city from the equation in terms of liability. This is not a matter of changing the use of the area. It's putting down some rules and an agreement, including a termination clause and a date line term for the agreement.

Up 7 Down 7

Riverdale res on May 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Well, if it's a very windy night, you might not hear the noise, but on a typical summers evening, you do hear them. And if you are on the West end of Alsek, or Boswell etc, you definitely do. Big piped 4s bikes do make noise that carries.
I fully support the riders leasing the area, and an evening restriction isn't a very big hoop to jump through.

Up 19 Down 2

Doubtful on May 11, 2017 at 9:37 am

I can't even hear the bikes from the South Access Road, let alone 'carrying into Riverdale', through two forests across the Yukon Electric hydro generating plant, across the river and then into the neighbourhood. I'm actually going to check this claim out next time I'm down there, really listening at the South Access, then in the YE parking lot, etc. to see just how far the sound carries.

That said, I don't remember anyone being there after 10 p.m. anyway.

Up 3 Down 15

Stanley Miller on May 11, 2017 at 1:54 am

I have no real issue with the lease it's more an issue of weird Whitehorse city process and council pretending that they have something in place that really works.

The city has a new noise bylaw which will be ignored. The planning contract and process for this very area has also been ignored. And of course the ATV bylaw will have to be amended to allow underage dirt bike operators to use the site.

Bylaw will look the other way as young dirt bike operators make their way to the site without plates and drivers licenses and insurance. Bylaw will also look the other way as adult operators make their way there will no plates or insurance etc. If you complain to bylaw they will say thank you we will record your complaint and respond when some magical threshold of complaints is recorded. All this, of course, would not be tolerated in most cities because their councils would think these issues through before raising their hands and with a serious facial expression vote for a lease that has so many unresolved issues. The new age council.

By the way, this site would be a great location for low income housing where people could walk to town and their children could walk to schools and these families could enjoy the trail and river. But of course low income people cannot afford dirt bikes and the city wants to provide a flawed lease site for the benefit of businesses that sell these toys.

Maybe I am cynical but I wish we had a mayor and council that could actually pass this or that while making sense of the underlying unresolved issues.

Up 13 Down 10

Riverdale Res on May 9, 2017 at 7:51 pm

While I support this, perhaps a condition could be that no use after say 9 or 10 PM? The noise actually does carry into Riverdale. Dirt bikers should have a place they can use for MX, but other residents have a right to quiet.
Something to consider.

Up 21 Down 4

rider on May 9, 2017 at 5:36 pm

Being one of the people who rides there, I can tell you that I can't see people pulling the 'my toe is in the door so now you can never get rid of me' routine. If the lease is for 10 years, and it can be terminated pending studies, that will be respected.

Right now how it is, the liability is an issue. Once it's leased out, the city is off the hook. It's close it down or lease it out. The track has been there since 1978, with no legal claims against the city. Yes one person died in an accident, and there have been some injuries. Nobody sued the city. But it does need to be dealt with and so long as the property is sitting empty and the riding isn't bothering anyone, we might as well all square it away and make it legal, with no liability hanging out there for the city.

Up 16 Down 7

Thomas Brewer on May 9, 2017 at 4:15 pm

The whole 16+ to operate an off road motor vehicle is complete BS.

It's just not the Yukon way.

Up 21 Down 7

NIMBY on May 9, 2017 at 3:53 pm

I don't ride motorbikes, atvs, or dirtbikes. I'm usually the first to call them in when they rip around my neighbourhood. Having said that, why in the heck would anyone oppose this. To oppose this sends the riders back into the underground/neighbourhoods/extremely far from help if something goes wrong. I am a southerner whose moved here and I don't do all the things real "Yukoners" do. But if these guys and gals want to have an organized park for these activities, and have educational events for young kids to keep them safer, I'm 100% in support of it, and will quite happily take my young daughter so she can learn in a safe environment. Heck, maybe i'll give it a try too, maybe see what all the fuss is about.

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