Whitehorse Daily Star

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Mike Gau and Mélodie Simard

New OCP envisions taller buildings, land for housing

The city is in the throes of developing a new Official Community Plan (OCP) to take Whitehorse out to the year 2040, senior city officials explained in a briefing Wednesday afternoon.

By Chuck Tobin on May 20, 2022

The city is in the throes of developing a new Official Community Plan (OCP) to take Whitehorse out to the year 2040, senior city officials explained in a briefing Wednesday afternoon.

“In this new OCP, we are looking at new opportunities for development,” Mélodie Simard, the city’s manager of planning and sustainability services, told reporters.

Simard explained several initiatives contained in the proposed plan.

They include changing the designation of the Porter Creek D area – the lands along McIntyre Creek between Porter Creek and Yukon University – from future residential to green space.

Lands along Holly Street in Porter Creek, and along Whistle Bend Way would be changed from green space to residential, she said.

Simard said under the proposed plan, restrictions on building heights in the downtown core would be increased from 25 metres to 32.5 metres, though height restrictions for Main Street would remain at 20 metres.

The plan contains numerous changes, she pointed out.

She said the OCP is essentially a land use plan.

The intent, said Simard, is to have a draft plan available for city council’s review this summer, with a goal of having a new plan adopted by the end of the year.

Simard said the draft proposes to increase the density allowed in the Old Town – Seventh and Eighth avenues – from four units per lot to six units.

The Marwell area would be transitioned from an industrial area to a mixed-use, live-work area with an allowance for two dwelling units per typical lot.

The area behind the Copper Ridge subdivision – the south growth area – has been identified for future residential development.

Simard said the south growth area could accommodate a new neighbourhood equivalent to the size of Whistle Bend, with the ability to accommodate many thousands of new homes.

“For the Yukon government to advance any construction will take years and years of planning,” she said.

The manager of planning noted the south growth area includes parcels of First Nation settlement land owned by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Ta’an Kwach’an Council.

The two First Nations, she said, have been involved in the pre-feasibility work for the south growth area going back to 2015.

Use of the settlement land will be bound by the OCP, she explained.

Simard said the First Nations have been part of the process and kept in the loop.

Mike Gau, the city’s director of development services, noted the future development of Whistle Bend Way could be a precious source of gravel for when the city twins Mountain View Drive.

The intent of the future planning, said Gau, is to provide in excess of 6,000 new units in the next 18 years.

“We know that housing is important to the community, and we expect we will hear about that issue in the upcoming public engagement,” he said.

Gau said they are planning for more housing than they expect to need, but if the demand slows down, the city can adjust and slow down its development as well.

There is a lot of focus in the draft OCP on providing different opportunities for different types of housing, he said.

Gau said the city is looking forward to hearing from Whitehorse residents during this final round of public engagement.

Specifics of the plan can be found on the city’s website at engagewhitehorse.ca.

The city will also be hosting open houses on May 25 and 26 between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre and on May 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at NorthLight Innovation. There will be an online presentation on May 31 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Comments (36)

Up 1 Down 0

My Opinion on May 31, 2022 at 4:24 pm


You are obviously new here. There is nowhere else to put the Airport and if there were it would cost a Billion Dollars. Cities like Prince George, Kamloops, Kelowna, RedDeer, Grande Prarrie would kill for an airport like ours. We don’t have a housing shortage problem we have a too many people problem.

Up 4 Down 14

Rational Thot on May 26, 2022 at 11:43 am

I knew when I saw this headline that the comments would include the classic lines like “but we won’t be able to see the mountains!!” And “if you don’t like it here then move back south”. Put down your banjos and look at the big picture. Density is necessary. The only way to build is up. It is more efficient and less impactful on the environment. If you want to look at the mountains, drive 10 min out of town. Look at downtown Juneau for an example of what Whitehorse should be. It is a way nicer city.

And be nice to the people from the south. They come from the places that fund this territory.

Up 10 Down 2

Josey Wales on May 26, 2022 at 9:39 am

Umm...Groucho & Nathan...
I suggest you are both wrong on the ink dry theory, here is why...
Many understand what the OCP really is, a municipal caste system for the citizens or peasants as I often reference.

Those with high social order in the filters of municipal cronyism, will get the exemptions.
So malleable is the OCP and so so arbitrary too, I suggest ink was never even present.
Been saying for years that the OCP was done in PENCIL and every lord and their nobility IS and HAS the eraser.

I today suggest a rebrand of the acronym.
Obtuse Communist Planners, more accurate than what “they” suggests it represents.
Y’all...please, carry on.

Up 7 Down 3

Groucho d'North on May 25, 2022 at 4:33 pm

@ Nathen Living
Mr. Living you are absolutely correct, the OCP's ink is not even dry before amendments are made to it. It is a fluid document or a Living Document as it is often called. Ill-considered issues must be shoehorned into it for a variety of reasons, usually those that require more money or time to be realized.

Up 5 Down 6

Charlie's Aunt on May 25, 2022 at 2:51 pm

@Moose; at some level I agree with you about not wanting to sprawl but unfortunately we have no control over our recent population explosion. All over the World new communities have sprung up from subdivisions that have progressed into a new village or town developing their own infrastructure, services, stores and businesses. This is called progress, whether wanted or not. For some reason, unknown to me so someone fill me in please, Whitehorse City limits are widespread. Limits include country residential areas but we also have hamlets outside the limits that are nothing more than bedroom communities who use our services FOC instead of building their own. Land use is compromised by YFN lands although joint progress is aimed at, but why do we have those huge City limits if land isn't used?

Regarding comments about airport: I believe the present location stems from days of armed forces when Whitehorse was much smaller, but yes it should have been relocated years ago. Airports of many places are far from city centers e.g., Edmonton, Halifax to name just two. Relocating ours would be costly but if a few miles out it would still be easily accessible and with far less traffic at peak times than current location. Not Long Lake area please, we need no other important infrastructure on other side of river, even with a never to happen second bridge. Original hospital was downtown and present location is a perfect example of poor planning on someone's part, did they think the then new planned subdivision of Riverdale was going to be the center of the universe? Best not mention the wisdom of rebuilding it smaller in same place. Time for a second hospital to be built in WB so one can be an emergency, out patient and short stay facility with other for longer term stays,

Up 10 Down 7

YXY on May 25, 2022 at 9:37 am

It seems to me that development planning at all levels of government is taking place in isolation and without actually fully appreciating the impacts of planning decisions.
The Yukon Government rebuilt the FH Collins school and added another school in Riverdale without considering changing/increasing population density in Riverdale as well as increased motor vehicle use by students and parents dropping children off.
Increasing residential density in the downtown core while simultaneously lowering traffic speeds on the main arteries.
Investing more money at Robert Service campground when it sits idle 8 months of the year, even though the City is crying for more multi unit occupancies. The campground site is ideal for a multi unit development and easy walking distance to downtown.
Investing more money in an airport that is occupying the most developable residential land within the City’s boundaries and really should be relocated.
All candidates in the last municipal election echoed the same promises of working with all partners to procure and make available more residential land, and yet prime real estate in on Nisutlin drive in Riverdale remains as prime ground squirrel habitat.
The new OCP is another patchwork of ill-conceived ideas put forward by consultants and politicians with no interest in actually getting things done.
Honestly, I have no idea why they bother. I guess it makes them feel good.

Up 11 Down 6

Mitch Holder on May 25, 2022 at 9:03 am

@ YXY - I looked into this and you seem to be right. I had been told in the past that one factor that restricted height was ground conditions, also aesthetics. I stand corrected, thank you. I still have no desire to live in an arctic garbage pile filled with tall buildings.

Up 8 Down 11

Moose on May 24, 2022 at 10:19 pm

@Can't See the sky

So you are willing to pay much higher property taxes in order to keep the view? You can literally drive out of the city in minutes in any direction and get all the views you like.

Anyone against building upwards should be barred from complaining about future property tax increases. Continuing to build outwards for miles and miles with all associated infrastructure and transportation needs is not cheap!

Up 9 Down 7

Charlie's Aunt on May 24, 2022 at 6:19 pm

Anyone else familiar with the wind howling through streets lined with high rise buildings in other cities? Just what we need for downtown Whitehorse - not!
Whitehorse has vast city limits with much of it vacant land, does it all belong to someone else?

Up 12 Down 1

Groucho d'North on May 24, 2022 at 5:16 pm

In all of this community planning information, I have not heard what the forecast is for population growth in the coming decade. How many people are expected to move to the Yukon and in which communities? What are the expert expectations & how does that factor in school capacities as children move through the K-12 system?

Up 20 Down 3

YXY on May 24, 2022 at 3:28 pm

Mitch, we do not live on "melting permafrost". Building height restrictions in the downtown core have nothing to do with permafrost or any other geotechnical conditions.

Up 28 Down 4

Fringe Minority with Unacceptable Views on May 24, 2022 at 11:39 am

I understand the need to create denser housing downtown, but I would really like to see some consideration on the traffic flow issues we have. As population increases so will the traffic flow.

Up 14 Down 1

DA on May 24, 2022 at 9:04 am

Wouldn't twinning Mountainview Drive create a bottleneck at the Tlingit and Copper Road intersection? Unless you could somehow twin the roads all the way to Superstore (which I doubt is feasible).

Up 12 Down 8

Billy Bob and the Shebangs! on May 24, 2022 at 9:01 am

Taller buildings will have self filling pools for their guests. Perfect, every project will be a sunk cost. We could line the entire escarpment with tall buildings designed to withstand the pressures of being backfilled.

Save the airport, save the City!

Up 17 Down 4

Mitch Holder on May 24, 2022 at 8:24 am

Expand the downtown core and spread commercial areas around the whole city, not just the valley and you will alleviate many of the problems of congestion we are having. When I lived in Nanaimo, Seven oaks Mall gutted the town because they were stubborn and didn't want to expand out of their downtown core - it get rough. Argus will do the same to Whitehorse, continuing up the Hill towards the money in Copper Ridge and Granger and Whistlebend as their Chilkoot mall already proves that bringing amenities closer to residential areas is a return on investment and it nearly killed the downtown core. Use your heads, expand the city out and about.

Up 13 Down 15

Mitch Holder on May 24, 2022 at 8:21 am

@ Moose - you heart is in the right place, but we live on melting permafrost, which is one of the main reasons we have height restrictions to begin with.

Up 13 Down 4

Mitch Holder on May 24, 2022 at 8:18 am

@ Matthew - Won't work at all or just won't work for You? What doesn't work is the Cities' limited view of expanding out of the downtown core and this is surely nothing new. Many have been saying this for decades.

Up 18 Down 7

BnR on May 24, 2022 at 6:32 am

The consultant(s) that initiated the whole “Old Town” thing for downtown Whitehorse should be run out of town.
That was the beginning of the end for Whitehorse as we knew it.

Up 26 Down 9

Can't see the sky and mountains on May 23, 2022 at 11:30 pm

If you can't see the sky and mountains, and all you see is shadows from massive ugly buildings, what's the point? Whitehorse had a bylaw on building heights and I guess that's being scrapped. Should be a city wide vote on it--I like to see the river and mountains downtown and the ugly several story buildings do NOT add to the beauty of our city!

Up 22 Down 12

drum on May 23, 2022 at 5:49 pm

If you do not like it here - a wilderness city - go somewhere else. Do not bring your Big City ideas here.

Up 41 Down 17

My Opinion on May 22, 2022 at 3:56 pm

These same engineers and planners are the ones that can’t get three feet of mud of the south access to save their life. Clowns the lot of them. Get a local contractor or a placer miner out there and he will bench that down from the top creating catchments end of problem. There are do’ers and talkers. I will let you decide who is who.

Up 48 Down 7

My Opinion on May 22, 2022 at 3:52 pm

Remember the last OCP. Whistlebend trees would be saved. Central remote heating plant down there to heat all the homes. Yeah right. Didn’t happen. Not a single tree left. Some planners.

Up 39 Down 18

My Opinion on May 22, 2022 at 3:49 pm

The Marwell proposal is crazy. What do you propose to do with all of the industrial and light industrial businesses down there? Shut them down? Young planners coming out of leftist Universities trying to make a name for themselves. No idea how things get built and fixed or by who. Just a utopian vision. That’s OK they made the country broke now the gravy train is over. If you are not productive we don’t need you.

Up 31 Down 3

Nathan Living on May 22, 2022 at 2:17 pm

If you read the old OCP you will become aware of how city administration and council often do not ahere to it.

They are very inconsistent which demonstrates it's a document they often follow when it suits their agenda and conversely they ignore it when it does not fit with their agenda.

Up 18 Down 32

Moose on May 22, 2022 at 1:53 pm

Great to see the height restrictions go up. Should go even higher I think. Building up instead of out means we don't have to clear more of our surrounding wilderness. It also means expanding a bit of existing infrastructure instead of creating miles of new infrastructure which is hard on the city's pocketbook. It would likely mean more property tax increases. So let's build up as high as we can instead of too far outwards. It is simply more efficient.

Up 30 Down 16

Just saying…. on May 22, 2022 at 5:32 am

Whitehorse has a land problem, it has a car/pavement problem. Public transportation needs to be built into any and all plans, because transportation is going to change, it’s inevitable. The amount of pavement in our city is simply too much, people and parks can live on/in those spaces that are used for maybe 9/10 hours a day. And please don’t get me started in the amount of needless government office space in the core of our city.

Up 45 Down 14

My Opinion on May 22, 2022 at 4:28 am

@City Resident

That is a stupid idea. It is the Airport that needs a large piece of flat land. Where would you suggest it should go
and what would that cost.
Secondly you state that Whitehorse has lots of available land. Well they don’t most anything that is not solid rock or straight up and down or a park or protected area has been given to the First Nations in their Land Claims deals.

That is why in this article they are describing that potential new large development as being a joint venture with the First Nations. Well I for one will not be building on land I do not own. That is for sure.

Up 14 Down 17

Wilf Carter on May 22, 2022 at 3:59 am

This OCP is not an OCP but a political document. An OCP has to be holistic including all services such as police health education which it does not at all and YTG has to be part of it. Data in the OCP is not correct on land development housing. City will have to expand its border.

Up 31 Down 6

Justine on May 21, 2022 at 7:25 pm

The building of more residential units is needed but I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to use the Marwell area for this.
Many cities down south are struggling with a lack of industrial commercial space because they got rid of it in favour of increased housing. Businesses need a place to operate and with increased population in the city and those businesses in the Marwell area will be needed. Or else where does the city plan to increase industrial and commercial space in the city?

Up 33 Down 6

Harold on May 21, 2022 at 5:47 pm

What I would like to see for Seniors sheltering in place is allow them access to mobile home pads spread apart to allow for ramps and a little deck. This puts them on one level for say $200,000.00 (two hundred thousand) plus pad rental off of the city say $450.00/month. This is 2 baths 3 bedrooms that are affordable, have Seniors aging in place on one level with possibly a view.
Brad Catthers and the realtors would have to back off or it wouldn't fly.

Up 16 Down 47

City Resident on May 21, 2022 at 12:05 pm

Why we have our airport right smack dab in the middle of town is a mystery.
While there is lots of land within the city’s municipal boundaries, what we are lacking is land suitable for large scale residential development. The airport sits smack dab on a huge area of flat land perfectly suitable for a large scale residential development that is, most importantly, close to down town.
Move the airport north of long lake and incorporate a second bridge.
Yes, it’s a huge project, but it makes sense.

Up 52 Down 13

Matthew on May 21, 2022 at 7:30 am

Plenty of land out there.. clearly! What won't work is having low income housing right behind 700K homes..

Up 52 Down 14

Loralee Kesler on May 20, 2022 at 8:17 pm

I can see the loss of the wilderness city on the horizon.

Up 59 Down 10

Vern Schlimbesser on May 20, 2022 at 8:04 pm

OK. Let's increase the population density of the Yukon flood-plain. Increase the local traffic, concentrate it in that small area, then confine it by having only two points of access. Dams, clay cliffs, river banks, LNG plants and mega-batteries. All in the same space. Put the hospital on one side and the airport at the top on the other.
What could go wrong? Who would ever anticipate this is a bad idea? No developer. No short-sighted lawyer or politician, until a disaster strikes, but that will never happen.

Up 6 Down 33

You know what would be neat on May 20, 2022 at 6:41 pm

If we shut down every other street from the roundabout at the SS Klondike to Home hardware and infilled them.

Less pedestrian crossings. A huge increase in available lots. A decrease in congestion.

Up 49 Down 16

drum on May 20, 2022 at 6:41 pm

Keep the buildings lower - 4 stories.

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