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The issue: Return to Kam Lake

We say: Council risks repeat of zoning quagmire

 

Sled dogs are wonderful. They attract tourists and tie us, literally and figuratively, to the territory’s legacy of traditional on-the-land sustenance living.

But the sound of dozens of dogs yelping away from one of the kennels on Curry Drive is not always welcomed by neighbours. The cacophony is impossible to ignore.

A dogsled team ‘pulling’ a snowmobile crosses Kam Lake Road after a brief run from Becks Sled Dog Kennels and Tours in the distance to the left of the hydro pole. The stretch of road runs between Kam Lake and Grace Lake, and acts as the entrance to what a draft city planning document calls Kam Lake South. The area, south of Grace lake,would see residential and light industrial zoning mixed together. Craig Gilbert/NNSL photo

The city has a new draft community plan, the document that roughs out from a bird’s eye perspective how land will be developed over the next 20 years. Unfortunately, it appears to be at risk of repeating the mistakes of Kam Lake industrial park in Kam Lake South, a new neighbourhood between the southern city limit and the south shore of Grace Lake that will be the “home for the dogs (sic) sledding community,” while allowing a mix of other uses, including tourism and agriculture.

Coun. Niels Konge hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that nearby ritzy, estate-style homes – a home on Grace Lake Boulevard is currently listing for nearly $900,000 – overlooking the slender, two-kilometre long Grace Lake don’t jive with a light industrial use, such as a dog lot.

Konge and other members of council, including Coun. Cynthia Mufandaedza, are right to be exasperated. The ship they’re sailing on appears to be heading straight back to all the bad ideas that haunt Kam Lake Industrial Park today – residences encroaching on industrial or commercial uses (or vice versa), moving dog kennels onto waterfront property when surprise, surprise! People also want to build homes there.

There appears to be data in the draft community plan itself that implies cramming disparate uses into one part of town is unwise. It’s a chart in Yellowknife’s draft community plan that projects the demand for residential, commercial and industrial space into the 2030s.

It shows that by the middle of that decade, the amount of land needed for housing could quadruple from 10.3 hectares in 2023 to 43.4 ha in 2035. If that’s the case, where are they going to put all those new homes? The land inventory is simply not available elsewhere.

Demand for industrial land, meanwhile, is not expected to increase beyond the 61.3 hectares available right now. With that demand apparently met, city councillors have the luxury of taking the time to craft a more specific plan for Kam Lake South that makes sense and is attractive to developers. This means it must include appropriate buffers between incompatible land uses.

“It’ll be a bit more to think about how we’re going to balance all the competing needs in a land-locked area,” Mayor Rebecca Alty said last week.

Alty also referred to how great it would be to have some certainty over what Commissioner’s Land the GNWT intends to transfer to the city (Commissioner’s Land forms the western part of the Kam Lake South parcel).

That may be true. But with or without that information, councillors will sooner than later have to sink their teeth into the nitty-gritty details of lot-specific zoning on the ground, including how many kennels, greenhouses and tourism operations will be permitted, and where, to say nothing of how much the city-leased quarry in the area will grow in the coming decades.

If they don’t, they run the risk of mushing right back into the same quagmire that became Kam Lake.

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