Whitehorse sets out how developers can flatten more land in community plan

·3 min read
Mélodie Simard, manager of Planning and Sustainability for the City of Whitehorse. She said this new policy regulates how and where developers can extract gravel and flatten land for future use.   (City of Whitehorse - image credit)
Mélodie Simard, manager of Planning and Sustainability for the City of Whitehorse. She said this new policy regulates how and where developers can extract gravel and flatten land for future use. (City of Whitehorse - image credit)

City officials say Whitehorse is running out of flat, developable land that doesn't conflict with green space or recreation space.

They are proposing a new policy in the city's draft community plan that would regulate how and where developers can extract gravel to level lands.

"We know that there's a high interest from our community on how lands get developed and what are the conditions for further development," Mélodie Simard, manager of planning and sustainability services for the City of Whitehorse, told CBC.

"In order to support more development, we needed to create those opportunities."

The plan suggests a temporary land use permit where a property owner or developer could flatten a piece of land by using gravel, extracted from other parts of the city, to get it ready for development.

Why the city is running out of land

Like other Canadian cities, Simard said Whitehorse strategically chose to develop lands close to the city centre and outer neighbourhoods first.

But as the city continues to grow, planners need to find new land options that are under the city's control. Whitehorse's location in a valley doesn't help, either, because it means little ideal land left in the city's urban boundary.

Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada
Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada

The most ideal lands are those that are easy for the public to get to, close to other existing developments and that don't conflict with recreation trails or green space.

"We've had record population growth over the last five years in Whitehorse," said Jane Koepke, director of the Yukon chapter of the Planning Institute of British Columbia.

"If that continues over time, there may have to be some really hard choices."

Extracting gravel for land levelling already happens in Whitehorse, Simard and Koepke said.

Along Burns Road, near the Tank Farm, flattening had previously happened, but Simard said the city "lacked policy guidance" on how to regulate these types of projects.

What's needed now, Koepke said, is more "clarity and transparency" around what the rules are.

"Hopefully that will create shared understanding between developers, the regulator, the city and neighbourhoods," she said. "That would be a fantastic step forward."

Neighbourhoods could have a say in land levelling

The suggested community plan is still a draft and it's a policy guiding document, Simard continued, which means more details will be worked out by later councils.

However, it introduces the idea that developers would need a permit. That would give the affected neighborhood or community the chance to comment and possibly set conditions for how the land is used.

Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada
Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada

"We do understand that major site grading can have some impact on adjacent land," Simard said. "So we do want to … put some conditions on those uses so that it becomes a win-win for the community."

More details of what the city will need to see, Koepke said, should come in a later zoning bylaw. It should include "clear guidance" about project timelines, when machines will be running and dust mitigation measures.

Residents have until June 12 to comment on Whitehorse's official community plan.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting