Saturday’s public hearing regarding Yellowknife’s proposed zoning by-law recalled many existing arguments, but also recast the debate based on age.
The hearing was a legal requirement as the city of Yellowknife tries to pass a bylaw governing how the city is developed such as what types of homes and businesses can go where.
Saturday’s six-hour public meeting marked the last opportunity for residents to give their views on the proposal, which sparked months of debate mostly over the city’s attempt to allow more businesses in some residential areas.
Staff will now provide councilors with a means to amend the draft regulation, taking into account any issues raised on Saturday that are deemed important enough to warrant a change.
City Hall says mixed-use zoning – allowing businesses and homes to coexist – is climate-friendly and lowers costs. âIt’s super old-school to say that this area is commercial and the area over there is purely residential. These are not ways that cities can modernize, that cities can stay vibrant, that cities can stay affordable, âCity Manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett told Cabin Radio last month.
Some residents, however, believe that mixed-use zoning opens the door to incongruous developments that disrupt what they believe to be the character of their neighborhood.
In many ways, Saturday’s hearing reflected the municipal minutiae of how neighborhoods are shaped and governed.
In less than an hour, councilors and residents were wondering how many chickens or bees should be allowed in a yard.
But the zoning bylaw sets the tone for Yellowknife with broader, longer-term consequences, and developers say the bylaw as drafted prepares the city well for the future.
âI am very encouraged and excited about what this regulation can create,â resident Tom McLennan told councilors. “I think it can provide better services to vulnerable populations, encourage new small local businesses, create full and pedestrian neighborhoods and more affordable housing options.”
The regulation aims to do this by facilitating the construction of shelters in the city center, allowing businesses such as bars or convenience stores in neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city center and encouraging densification, in which more houses are built in the same space.
âI have struggled to find affordable housing in Yellowknife and buying a home remains an intimidating prospect,â said McLennan, one of the younger residents to speak on Saturday.
âI am concerned that people in my demographic are leaving Yellowknife. There are a lot of people in this position and the proposed rule changes allow for more innovative solutions to encourage people to stay in the community for the long term.
Cat McGurk said that while young Yellowknifers have been virtually absent from the settlement consultation process, the proposed settlement is shifting the baton from a way of life that was no longer sustainable to solutions for the uninspired generations.
âAlmost none of us believe we’re going to retire, either because we can’t afford it or because we don’t think we’ll live to see it,â McGurk said of his group. ‘age.
âIt is difficult for us to put energy into combating the values ââthat place us in this position. We just don’t have the capacity to stand up to retired baby boomers.
âAs a person under the age of 30, I support this regulation. I want to grow old in a city where I can move around easily. My generation is passionate about multi-family homes. We don’t like cars and we hate ornamental lawns. Our neighborhoods will be very different from those that generations before us have built.
“A reasonable residential experience”
McLennan and McGurk were two of three residents who came out clearly in favor of the settlement, joined by President of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce Rob Warburton.
Two others spoke nominally in favor, but did so primarily to support the town’s recent retreat to Grace Lake, whereby planners re-established a buffer of green space they had removed north of that neighborhood. . Without this, an industrial zone would have been authorized closer to homes.
Nine people took the floor to oppose the settlement. There were 28 written submissions, including six for and 22 against.
Opponents say the settlement makes their neighborhoods too vulnerable to significant change. They say the earlier decision by some councilors to reestablish certain types of businesses in what’s known as the RC-1 area – the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown core – was ill-founded.
Planners, based on feedback from residents, had removed businesses such as bars and convenience stores from permitted uses in the RC-1 area – an example of a neighborhood being Avenue 50A, where several of Saturday’s speakers said that they were living.
Council subsequently voted to reinstate these uses and hear more from residents.
“What we all want is assurance that we will continue to have a reasonable residential experience,” former councilor Linda Bussey said on Saturday, “unhindered by the excessive traffic disruption on a narrow street, the parking pressures that cannot be accommodated; and negative impacts on our quality of life caused by an incompatible mix of targeted commercial and residential uses in our area.
Bussey said daycare centers, nursing homes, tourism businesses or educational uses could be tolerated, but even then, only on a discretionary basis.
Tom Hall said uses like restaurants, convenience stores and urban farming – the source of the chicken question – were “all totally incompatible and should not be included.”
âOne of the stated objectives of the city council is the revitalization of the city center. It didn’t materialize to a significant degree, âHall said.
âNow the approach seems to be to abandon the downtown area and simply expand a potential commercial sphere beyond the downtown area. “
Opponents believe the settlement contains few obvious limits to the scale and intrusion of potential business developments. City staff say mechanisms both in the zoning by-law and beyond would help control this.
More generally, some residents believe that the by-law deprives them of their right to have a say if a development occurs in their neighborhood that ticks the boxes in the by-law but, in their opinion, does not lend itself to it.
Beyond the issue of mixed use, Kenny Ruptash told advisers that labor camps needed to be better planned in the regulation, with major projects expected to create hundreds of jobs in the years to come. City staff said the labor camps had failed to integrate people into the community, but Ruptash’s suggestion would be considered. Ruptash said the city’s housing market could be unduly disrupted if camps are not encouraged, such is the expected influx.
Ruptash also suggested that the city designate lots that receive services like water and sewerage and lots that do not. For now, he argued, the city is banning developments such as the warden suites in the Engle business district because it does not want to foot the bill to provide the services required. Designating an unserviced lot, he said, would allow custodian suites and other uses while clarifying that the developer must provide those services.
Unique city or resistant to change?
Council must now determine which version of the residents of Yellowknife it believes in 10 or 20 years most people will want and be able to occupy.
âAnyone who has lived here for some time – and I was born and raised here – knows that Yellowknife is a unique city, with unique neighborhoods and a unique development history,â said Hall, a resident of the 50A Avenue, which rejected suggestions that Yellowknife should look south for inspiration.
âThe approach here seems to be that we can take a model from the south and just overlay it on the city and everything will be wonderful. Nothing could be further from the truth. “
Hall rejected McGurk’s argument that the city needed to move from a model that worked for older generations.
âI always find it interesting to hear that people of my generation are responsible for all the problems and don’t know how to develop a community,â he said, âdespite the fact that many of us have invested 50 or 60 and over live, work and help build community.
But McGurk said a city of single-family homes is no longer viable in a world where hardly anyone below a certain age can afford it.
Plus, she said, the Yellowknife she envisions already exists around many of the homes considered to be the city’s most desirable.
âThere is something special and worth cherishing about the Old Town,â McGurk told councilors.
“And you know why there is so much character and what makes it so unique?” That’s because you can leave your office at 5 p.m. and you can walk over to Weaver and Devore and buy a new toque on the way to your reservation at Bullocks, then you can end the night with a pint at the Woodyard and go home. at McDonald’s safely. Drive. Much of the old town still has been zoned for mixed use. That’s what makes it special.
âThings have to change. If, at 50, things haven’t changed? Well, I might be dead. Or struggle in a post-collapse world where zoning and public hearings are a distant memory.
âIt sounds like a laugh to equate passing a zoning by-law with the environmental and economic collapse of society, but it is resistance to change that is the real killer. “