A plan governing how Yellowknife is developed for the next decade is almost finalized – but how, and where, more dogs should be accommodated in that plan remains a question.
The community plan is an overarching document meant to guide how and where new things get built. Every eight years, the plan gets an update. City councillors are almost ready to sign off on the latest version.
However, discussing the plan on Monday, councillors grappled with the practicalities of an area known as Kam Lake South.
Kam Lake is notorious for conflicts between people trying to use the land for different things. The mixed-use area permits a variety of homes, small businesses, industrial developments – and dog kennels, long a source of controversy.
The City of Yellowknife has already broadly agreed the Yellowknife Dog Trotters Association can gradually acquire the Kam Lake land its 250 dogs have occupied for decades. The existing dog mushers consider that land acquisition a matter of reconciliation.
Read more: Full community plan and background documents
The question for councillors to now answer is where more dogs would go in future.
Much of the feedback regarding an earlier, draft version of the community plan came from residents in and around Kam Lake South – particularly those in Grace Lake, an affluent and relatively new development – who don’t like the idea of living too close to even more kennels, documents provided to councillors showed.
The draft community plan states Kam Lake is “intended to be the home for the dog-sledding community.” Alongside that, Kam Lake South is expected to become the home of small-scale agricultural enterprises, quarrying, and some tourist operations.
The plan uses a causeway between Grace Lake and Kam Lake as a form of boundary. Tour operators, agricultural businesses like greenhouses, and quarrying would sit south of the causeway. Light industry would be encouraged north of the causeway.
New dog mushers would be south of the causeway. They would be kept as close to the shore of Kam Lake as possible while maintaining public access to the lake, the plan suggests.
“I’m really struggling to see quarrying next to dogs, next to agriculture … seeing agriculture right next to it and seeing tourism right next to it, I’m just not seeing those four compatible,” said Councillor Cynthia Mufandaedza on Monday.
Speaking to Cabin Radio on Tuesday, Mayor Rebecca Alty acknowledged “a lot of the feedback” on the plan was “to not allow dogs in Kam Lake South, this newer area where the quarry and Grace Lake is.”
Alty said: “It’s easy to say, ‘This isn’t a good fit, put them somewhere else.’ Where is somewhere else? Looking at a map, it’s tough to find that location.
“[Grace Lake residents] have bought and wanted to build on a beautiful lake, but there have always been dogs – when they purchased the property, the dogs were there. Grace Lake has been there seven years, the dogs have been there for more than 30 years.”
A day earlier, Councillor Niels Konge had said he shared some residents’ concerns.
“People who bought along Grace Lake … certainly did not buy with the knowledge that there could be 1,000 dogs as their neighbour,” Konge said.
A map of the Kam Lake South area in the city’s community plan.
The plan states a “natural vegetation buffer” will be maintained between the quarry, which the City anticipates will expand, and the Grace Lake subdivision. Buffers between dog lots and the Grace Lake South housing development will also be written into the City’s zoning bylaw as the plan stands. Dog lots would be allowed on specific parcels of surveyed land, and not across the whole area.
Each new dog lot would come with certain conditions, said Nalini Naidoo, the City’s planning director – similar to conditions placed on the Dog Trotters when the association and the City recently agreed to explore paying for its Curry Drive lot through a payment plan.
Kam Lake South remains just one aspect of the community plan, which exists in similar detail for all areas of Yellowknife.
Elsewhere, Councillor Mufandaedza wanted to see public transit considered for Grace Lake, while Councillor Julian Morse raised what he felt could be the “conflicting goals” of wanting to revitalize downtown by attracting businesses there, while also developing the Frame Lake West area off Old Airport Road.
How the Engle business district would expand, and how this would interact with a neighbouring residential area, was raised by Konge. Councillor Shauna Morgan wants to see more assurances to the public around the preservation of existing green space such as Tin Can Hill and the toboggan hill.
Councillors will continue giving feedback on the community plan at noon on Tuesday, November 12, in a meeting open to the public. There will also be a public hearing scheduled before the document proceeds through council and on to the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.
Ollie Williams contributed reporting.