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Housing
Yellowknife

Avens expansion inches forward as residents raise laneway concerns


Plans to expand housing at a Yellowknife seniors’ facility are slowly advancing but nearby residents say use of an alley to access the site could spell trouble. 

The proposed Avens Pavilion project is a mix of independent housing and supported living that includes 92 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units, along with parking, laundry, and a coffee shop.

Currently, Avens has long-term care beds for 55 seniors and 32 housing units. 

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Avens intends for the expansion to fill gaps in affordable housing for Yellowknife seniors and allow Elders to age in place. 

“This is an incredible gap of services that are not provided,” said Daryl Dolynny, Avens’ chief executive. 

On Monday, Yellowknife city councillors discussed whether to allow Avens’ use of the 50 Avenue lot as a special care facility. Council approval of what is termed a conditionally permitted use is a requirement under the city’s zoning bylaw. 

While city staff and many councillors supported the project, they did express concern about developers’ plans to use a laneway leading from Franklin Avenue as the main access point.

A dozen nearby residents wrote to City Hall arguing the Matonabee alley is too narrow and unsafe to support more traffic.

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In a presentation to councillors, Hermina Joldersma – who lives in a condo that shares the alley – said there is “major flooding” in the area every spring due to a lack of drainage. She added there is poor visibility at the intersection of the alley and Franklin Avenue, and there have already been “near misses” with pedestrians and cyclists. 

“There is a fatality that is going to happen at that intersection,” she said of Avens’ plan to increase local traffic. 

As a solution, Joldersma proposed all traffic to Avens Pavilion go through the entrance to Avens’ main campus at the intersection of Franklin Avenue and 57 Street, which is regulated by a traffic light. 

“I’m asking council to please get this development right,” she said.

“We’ve only got one chance to get it all right and that’s now.”

$10M entrance dilemma

City staff acknowledged issues with the laneway, stating it doesn’t meet emergency access standards under the national building code and measures like widening and paving it, or adding signage, might not be adequate. 

Dolynny said using Avens’ main entrance is not a viable option due to a substantial drop in elevation between the two sites. Designs using that entrance cost about $10 million more to accommodate parking needs and elevation changes, he said. 

Councillor Shauna Morgan said she was wary of approving conditional use of the site without seeing potential options to address residents’ concerns.

Councillor Niels Konge countered that council is only being tasked with approving conditional use. Konge said looking at alternatives to the laneway was not yet necessary and would require the developer investing a lot of work and money

Mayor Rebecca Alty added that if the conditional use permit is approved, city staff will work with developers to make sure plans comply with city bylaws and the building code.

Residents would still have the chance to review and appeal the development permit before construction can begin. 

Councillors will again review Avens’ permit request on February 1, then formally vote on the matter on February 8.

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