The city has completed the rewrite of its Official Community Plan (OCP), senior administrators said at a press briefing Tuesday afternoon.
Mélodie Simard, the city’s manager of planning and sustainability, and Mike Gau, the director of development services, explained changes to the plan that have been made based on public input received.
The city, for instance, had been planning to raise its height restriction on new buildings from 25 metres to 32.5 metres, but has cut the increase to 30 metres as a result of public urgings.
The input also suggested new high-rises would not be suitable for the neighbourhood south of Main Street and should be limited to north of Main – the OCP reflects the feedback received.
Multi-storey residential developments in the downtown area are favourable in achieving a higher density in the downtown as a means of reducing reliance on vehicles and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Simard explained.
All phases of the plan’s development were made available for public review and comment, the officials pointed out.
The new proposed plan was made available for review in May.
The OCP was last updated in 2010.
Simard noted the document has been out for public review numerous times since it was last rewritten 12 years ago.
Since the plan was made available on the EngageWhitehorse.ca site, the city has received more than 2,000 comments which have been summarized under five themes:
impacts to surrounding neighbours;
community growth patterns;
future of the downtown;
reconciliation and First Nations inclusion; and
Simard said the biggest shift in the OCP from 2010 is the recognition the city must work in partnership with First Nations as the city plans for growth, and not just on First Nation settlement land.
The city, she said, worked closely with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Ta’an Kwach’an Council in renewing the OCP.Simard pointed out the city is committed to renewing its declaration of commitment with Kwanlin Dun and the Ta’an Kwach’an Council signed in 2018.
It’s committed to advancing a reconciliation framework with the First Nations, she said.
“The city is very grateful for the input the Kwanlin Dun and Ta’an have put into the OCP, both at the staff level and political level,” she said.
Simard said the OCP now includes “a healthy city” as a guiding principle along with increases in commitments to climate action and reconciliation planning.
“The city has a big role to play in the health of its residents, a big role.”
The document has been fashioned to make it easier to digest and more accessible to readers, she said.
Simard said to support community growth, the OCP looks to ensure there is a continuous supply of gravel, with a long-term supply identified at Steven’s Quarry, off the Alaska Highway just west of the Mayo cutoff, while quarrying continues at Ear Lake and McLean Lake.
The OCP also proposes to allow interim quarries, such as preparing land for development to provide additional granular resources.
The city’s population as of March 31 was 33,871, territorial data said.
The total number of dwellings in Whitehorse as of 2021 was 11,970 units.
Based on work with the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, the city is anticipating a population growth requiring an additional 6,150 housing units by 2040.
The 2010 OCP provides for the anticipated growth within the existing OCP boundaries, with a focus on the continued development of the Whistle Bend subdivision.
The 2040 OCP identifies a new area between Hamilton Boulevard and McLean Lake to handle another 7,100 housing units in the future, known as the south growth area.
Simard said there was a lot of interest in the McIntyre Creek area and the possibility of a transportation corridor linking Mountainview Drive with the Alaska Highway.
There’s a lot of work to do before even contemplating a transportation corridor through there, she said.
Gau said the need for such a corridor would first of all have to be confirmed through a comprehensive transportation study.
He said the city would then be required to do extensive heritage and environmental studies, a process which would take years.
The OCP looks to incorporate what was once known as the proposed Porter Creek D expansion area for housing into the future McIntyre Creek park, it was noted.
The officials at Tuesday’s briefing said it’s expected the plan will be presented to city council with the expectation council will vote on whether to accept it before the end of the year.
A public hearing on the new OCP in city council chambers is scheduled for Sept. 12 but the hearing process is open now and residents are free to provide written submissions ahead of Sept. 12. The plan can be found at https://whitehorse.ca
Residents can also appear before council to make their views known prior to the Sept. 12 public hearing.
The 93-page document, which also includes several maps, will be presented to city council this coming Monday for first reading of the bylaw required to adopt the new OCP.
Second reading is scheduled for Oct. 12 and third reading is slated for Dec. 12.