CITY COUNCIL BRIEFS: Construction season to see Franklin Avenue closures

by Avery Zingel - May 15, 2018

Yellowknifers can expect considerable delays as the city conducts major capital projects, including paving work that will shut down part of Franklin Avenue for three weeks.

“It’s going to be a very busy summer, construction is going to affect every resident in Yellowknife and we do ask for your patience,” said Nalini Naidoo, acting senior administrative officer.

City Councillors debate active transport design, university study and opening Old Town to hotel development. Avery Zingel/NNSL photo

The closure between Reservoir Road and Forrest Drive will force traffic into residential detours, said the city’s engineering manager, Wendy Alexander.

In a presentation to council Monday, Alexander described a slew of paving and capital projects including work at Highway 3 and Old Airport Road, Engle Business District paving, a new Kam Lake playground and water and sewer work in Kam Lake.

To address safety concerns, a new flashing crosswalk will be placed at Range Lake and a traffic light will be installed at 44th Street and Franklin Avenue, close to the Salvation Army.
The city will install a weigh out scale at the dump and will establish groundwater monitoring wells in the landfill area.

The back half of Northlands will be paved this summer. The rest will be paved next year.
The city is widening Franklin Avenue at Gitzel Street to add a left turning lane and will add video surveillance equipment at the intersection.

Council approves lower tax increase than expected

City councillors approved a 1.4 per cent municipal and school tax levy, down from the expected 1.8 per cent.
The lower tax increase is a result of development, including the Stanton Territorial Hospital Renewal Project.
“(This is) wonderful news” that indicate the “benefits of densification,” said Coun. Adrial Bell.

Where should the sidewalk end?

As the city commences paving for the year, some councillors are asking for the creation of a design standard to govern capital projects.

Residents on Calder Crescent are concerned about a lack of a sidewalk, said Coun. Adrian Bell.
Consultations on a sidewalk for Calder were split almost down the middle, he said.

“When it’s inconclusive, we have to appeal to some kind of design standard,” said Bell. “Really what we are talking about is public safety. Children in the area now have to weave in and out either walking on peoples lawns or dodging in and out between trailers with big boats. That is not an ideal situation.”

Coun. Shauna Morgan said she would support administration’s direction to pave Calder, based on the levels of public consultation.

The city has to work within the budget allocated to the project, and would not likely be able to redesign a 1.5 metre sidewalk based on available staffing, said Naidoo.

Councillors Bell, Julian Morse and Niels Konge voiced their support for a design standard for sidewalks.

“If I were to go into a neighbourhood buy a house, and there’s no way for me to walk to my house without being in the middle of the roadway, that seems like a strange thing,” he said.

“My personal assessment is that it is inadvisable to establish a crescent without a sidewalk,” said Morse, noting that residents disagreed with that assessment during consultations.

Councillors are in a difficult position when public feedback on design is made, but have little contribution to the specific details of design, said Morse.

Establishing design standards is the type of policy council should be involved in, he said.

“Then we’re talking about why we’re not going with the standard, if we’re not. Otherwise we’re going with a standard because that’s what, as a community, we’ve established we want to do,” said Morse.

Councillors should have some say in approving the nature of capital projects, particularly where councillors are unclear on what they are voting on – including whether sidewalks are being included, said Konge.

“What I’m asking for is a better idea of what we’re actually approving,” said Konge.

Councillors debate merits of a university in Yellowknife

In 2018, council approved $50,000 to study the economic benefits of establishing a post secondary institution in Yellowknife.

City councillors debated how many members should committee for the university and post secondary feasibility study on Monday.

Coun. Linda Bussey suggested that one recent graduate should sit on the committee.

“I think it would be beneficial to have a student or a recent grad from one of these institutions… that is part of the program or just finished the program here,” said Bussey. “I think it would benefit the committee and council.”

The terms are intentionally set out to be “as flexible as possible,” said Kerry Penney, the city’s director of policy, communications and economic development.

Coun. Rebecca Alty proposed the committee include an economic analyst.

“We’re setting the stage for the common pitfall, which is that committee members have already made up their mind,” said Alty.

She further proposed to shrink the committee’s number of post-secondary representatives and add a representative from the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce.

“The purpose of the committee was to ensure we had available in the room experts in the area,” she said.

Morgan said she does not see a “particular reason” to limit the committee size and Bell also disagreed with Alty’s proposal.

“I certainly don’t want to see a reduction in the number of experts on this committee,” said Bell.

Morse, who headed up the initiative, agreed that having a financial representative would be beneficial to the committee’s work. He also supported adding a member from the chamber of commerce.

“I am supportive of Councillor Alty’s suggestion that we have someone with expertise in economic analysis. She makes a good point. I see it as an advantage in that I’m quiet confident there is the potential for economic benefits,” said Morse.

“Ultimately, the expertise is going to lie with the consultant,” he said.

Council will vote on the terms of reference during the May 28 council meeting.

Old Town hotel bylaw considered

Council is debating whether to open up Old Town to potential hotel development in a balancing act between preserving the historic neighbourhood and promoting tourism.

Morse asked if the city would propose zoning that would uphold the character of Old Town as a historic neighbourhood.

“I don’t want to see us inadvertently killing the nature of Old Town in a ‘death by a thousand cuts’ sort of thing … and over time, ‘Oh dear, we’ve lost our historic neighbourhood,’” said Morse. “I’m a bit hesitant about this but as I said I think there are properties in this neighbourhood that make a lot of sense for establishing hotels. I am ultimately supportive of it, and yet have reservations related to heritage concerns.”

Konge weighed in, adding his support.

The NWT Brewing Company is one example of how a new business has revitalized and added to the neighbourhood, he said.

“These uses are conditionally permitted, anything of that natural that comes to city hall will have to get council approval, where council can ensure somebody didn’t go and buy ten side-by-side lots to build a modern Best Western, or whatever,” said Konge.

Habitat for Humanity awarded “sub-par” lot

City council voted to award Habitat for Humanity a piece of property but it was not the one they asked for.

Habitat for Humanity had asked for a specific piece of property at 26 Spence Rd. The city was to grant the space for the nominal fee of one dollar.

Instead, council voted to grant them an adjacent lot with less favourable bedrock conditions.

The motion brought forward by Konge to award a different lot passed, with Morgan opposed.

“They came back to us with a thoughtful argument as to why they still preferred lot 47. For that reason, I will vote against the motion and support Habitat for Humanity’s request,” said Morgan.

Konge asked for additional information on why the specific lot was chosen or if variances would be required.

“I’m not sure these are the right lots that we should be disposing of,” said Konge, arguing that some of the lots taken up by the organization have been harder to develop. “I think we owe it to ourselves and to the citizens of Yellowknife to ensure that we’re not handing the best lots that we have off.”

In response, Mayor Mark Heyck said the city should not be offering “sub-par lots” to Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity supplies partner families with homes with affordable, no-interest mortgages. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are set within 30 per cent of their gross income, with mortgage payments entering a fund to build homes for other families in need.