Three city councillors balked at being asked to approve a Capital Area Development Plan that includes a residential development near Frame Lake, something they say council has never had a chance to debate and could harm downtown revitalization efforts.
Coun. Adrian Bell said he couldn’t support the capital plan as presented to councillors May 23.
The capital plan is a revision of one passed in 1996 that sets out how land will be used around Frame Lake and creates joint management committees with the GNWT and city.
Bell said he sees two plans, one with aspects like trails, McNiven Beach and other improvements but a second part that includes a new development called Frame Lake West which would be a mixed use, medium density subdivision between the western end of the lake and Old Airport Road.
He said that’s never been debated by council and approving the capital plan would set the city down a path toward the subdivision.
“Personally, it’s a path I’ve never believed we should go down,” he said.
Coun. Niels Konge asked why the development would be included in the capital plan and suggested removing those aspects so council could deal with it separately.
Mayor Mark Heyck explained the subdivision is presented with the capital plan because its connected with other aspects such as trails and green spaces.
The subdivision idea was mentioned in 2014 as the city carried out public consultations on revising the capital plan.
Last fall Jeff Humble, the city’s then-director of planning and development, told Yellowknifer the Frame Lake West area was attractive for development because of its proximity to the lake, trail system, amenities such as the Co-op and downtown. It could involve townhomes, condos or apartment buildings up to four floors, said Humble, who no longer works for the city.
Bell said he’s been critical of the way the city will sometimes float ideas during public consultation and then include them in plans without giving council a chance to debate the issue. A previous example he used was the city’s 2010 Smart Growth Plan calling for commercial sections of Old Airport Road being redeveloped as residential.
“This to my mind has never really been on the public’s radar and yet it seems to find its way into our planning,” said Bell, adding he was a proponent of the idea over a much longer time span – and after downtown goals had been met.
Coun. Julian Morse echoed some of Bell’s comments and said he worried approving the plan would limit future council decision-making because of the high level of detail about certain aspects.
“I would describe my concern about (Frame Lake West) as quite serious,” Morse said. “I think the idea of putting medium-density, eco-housing out there completely contradicts our goal of downtown revitalization.”
He said if the city is successful in moving some of the commercial and industrial businesses out of the Old Airport Road area and putting residential in, it could “seal the fate” of downtown by placing more people outside the city’s core.
He said he’d likely reject Frame Lake West if it came to council for approval outside the capital plan.
Konge said it would be prudent for city staff to see if Frame Lake West can be removed from the capital plan prior to it returning to council for approval.
Coun. Rebecca Alty suggested council hold an evening meeting to consider the details of the capital plan.
Heyck ended the debate saying he would speak with the city’s senior administrative officer about the issues raised and then gauge interest in holding a special committee meeting.