Yellowknife releases draft plan for city’s next phase

Last modified: October 8, 2019 at 10:51am

The City of Yellowknife released a draft community plan designed to provide a “road map” for Yellowknife’s development over the next two decades, governing what should get built and where.

The city’s mayor said tourism, urban agriculture, and addressing the issue of sled dog lots in Kam Lake were key aspects of the 107-page draft plan, which now heads out for public consultation.

Unlike Hay River’s community plan, which was released a few weeks ago, Yellowknife’s plan predicts no dramatic population increase. Nor does it refer in any detail to expected new developments, such as the potential location of a new polytechnic university campus or the city’s planned aquatic centre.


In full: The City of Yellowknife’s draft community plan

The plan is heavily influenced by City Hall’s goals to reduce both corporate and community greenhouse gas emissions. Improvements to public transit, and walking and cycling trails, are frequently mentioned.

In an attempt to make public transit more attractive, the City said it will consider “frequent and direct service” to areas like Old Town, downtown, recreation spaces, Old Airport Road, and the airport.

With climate change in mind, the City’s draft plan mandates consideration of how susceptible an area may be to permafrost degradation before development takes place. The City will also aim to build in a way that reduces the risk of wildfires spreading.

Vacant lots – both those owned by the City and privately – will be developed before greenfield spaces, the draft suggests.


Where will homes go?

Residential development will concentrated in vacant lots the City has for sale or is preparing to sell in Niven, Grace Lake South, the city core, and central residential areas.

The City plans to prioritize developing areas already serviced by piped water and sewer, as opposed to areas like the Con redevelopment area, which will only be developed in the longer term if demand requires.

A map identifies the different areas of Yellowknife identified in the community plan.

A map identifies the different areas of Yellowknife set out in the draft community plan.

The plan supports greater residential density (i.e. apartment buildings), affordable housing, inclusivity, and mixed-use spaces.


Small-scale urban agriculture will also be promoted, as long it does not “negatively impact the residential character of the neighbourhood.” The City listed raised gardens, small chicken coops, and domestic beehives as examples.

Kam Lake South designated for dogs

Downtown revitalization plans include encouragement of smaller retail stores to draw in foot traffic. Near Old Airport Road, the City will focus on attracting large box stores that require more space.

Industrial development will be reserved for the Engle Business District along Deh Cho Boulevard. Vacant lots in that district are expected to satisfy demand until at least 2035.

Heavy industrial work currently located on Old Airport Road will be encouraged to move to Engle.

The Kam Lake South area is now clearly described as “intended to be the home for the dog-sledding community,” confirming that mushers in the area will no longer face the threat of being moved.

In late August, the City proposed a payment plan to allow the Yellowknife Dog Trotters Association to gradually pay for the Kam Lake land its kennels occupy.

“Dog kennels – and accessory residential uses as required for dog mushers that may wish to live on the same property as their dogs – will be permitted uses,” reads the draft plan. The City says it “recognizes the traditional and historical importance of dog sledding in the community, and the access to trails and lakes that have been established because of a long-term tenure in this area of Yellowknife.”

Light industry, tourism, and quarrying are also among the planned uses for Kam Lake South, though the City warns all such industries to “be aware that dog lots are present in this area and will remain.”

Yellowknife also expects the quarry in Kam Lake South will expand in the “near future.”

To reduce the quarry’s impacts on Grace Lake South, a “natural vegetation buffer” will remain.

The western section of Kam Lake South is still Commissioner’s Land and is managed by the Government of the Northwest Territories. The City plans to apply for the land so that planning in the area can continue.

The remainder of Kam Lake is intended to transition from heavy industry to light industrial and commercial uses, like artisanal manufacturing, horticulture and agriculture, and tourism.

Con Mine may some day host a sports field

While the former Con Mine site is currently being remediated, the City is already planning what to do with the area in future.

City Hall is working with the NWT government and site owner Miramar to acquire nearby land for future development. While the mine site itself is unsuitable for residential housing, the neighbouring land may be zoned as residential.

What the City can do with the actual mine site will depend on the level of remediation. Potential future uses could include a sports park for softball, fastball, and soccer fields.

A map identifies areas pegged for residential, commercial, and industrial development in Yellowknife.

A map identifies areas pegged for residential, commercial, and industrial development in Yellowknife.

Next summer, the remediation of another contaminated mine site – Giant Mine, to the north of the city – will limit or complete shut down access to sites like the boat launch.

In the interim, the Con Mine area is expected to “become the primary public access to Great Slave Lake,” the plan states. The City is working to acquire waterfront land and is determining if building a new boat launch is feasible.

Improved public access to water and green space is highlighted throughout the plan. In Old Town, the City said it will preserve the shoreline for “public access and commercial [and] government operations that require direct access to Great Slave Lake.”

The City also wants to increase accessibility to Tin Can Hill by developing new walking and cycling paths. At some future point, the plan states, there is a chance limited development will take place on parts of Tin Can Hill – while preserving trails and public access.

In theory, the plan should now receive a major update every eight years.

Residents can provide feedback on the draft plan until Friday, October 18 at noon either online, by emailing the consultant, or calling the consultant at 867-920-4555 ext 4105.

There are also three open-house sessions where officials can talk through aspects of the plan, as follows:

  • Thursday, October 10 from 4-6pm in the Multiplex foyer
  • Wednesday, October 16 from 11:30am-1pm in the City Hall foyer
  • Wednesday, October 16 from 6-8pm in the Multiplex foyer