On Friday, an agenda published on the City of Yellowknife’s website confirmed three fast food outlets are hoping for permission to open up on Old Airport Road.

If city councillors give them the go-ahead, KFC will return to Yellowknife alongside new Taco Bell and Starbucks outlets.

The submission included with the agenda – for Monday’s municipal services committee meeting – runs to 17 pages. Here are some of the things we learned from reading through the materials.


Why do city councillors need to approve this?

The land at 251 Old Airport Road, where these outlets would be built, is zoned for commercial use with food and beverage outlets included as a “conditionally permitted” type of business. Any time a conditionally permitted business wants to open up on this kind of land, city council has the final say in whether that can happen and what conditions, if any, they have to fulfil first.

Councillors could, in theory, reject the application even if it appears to meet all the criteria. Old Airport Road has a specific set of guidelines for how new buildings should be built in the area, and the designs submitted for these three outlets meet most of them.

Administration, in its memo to councillors, sounds broadly very happy with the designs as they stand. “The proposed development aligns with the character vision of Old Airport Road, creating greater diversity of use and encouraging active transportation with new pedestrian linkages,” reads a memo prepared for councillors. “Approving this development would support council’s goals for economic diversification and community sustainability.”

If they are convinced, councillors can approve the application and add some conditions if they see fit. Council could later withdraw that approval if the development then didn’t end up meeting the requirements of the relevant zoning rules.

Councillors have to review the application for its impact on nearby properties, whether it’ll look the part compared to the rest of the area, and whether it meets the general design guidelines for the neighbourhood.

The City may spend $63,000 to help this happen if it goes ahead

The initial application came to the City back in November, so this has been in the works for more than half a year.

In March, the City received a draft of a traffic study designed to figure out what kind of impact these three fast-food joints would have on Old Airport Road. That study even goes as far as to predict the length of the drive-through line at different hours of day.

City administration sounds happy that the ultimate impact won’t be too bad. “As cited in the attached technical review, drive-through commercial retail pads for Starbucks, KFC and Taco Bell are not considered large generators of traffic, nor are they known for recurring vehicle queuing problems like McDonald’s or Tim Hortons during peak times,” reads the City’s memo.

“The three drive-throughs proposed for the Old Airport Road development will have ‘offset peak hours’ and thus all three will never peak at the same time,” it adds.

“The new Starbucks site will have occasional queuing in excess of seven vehicles (maximum drive-through length) during the morning peak, but those queue spikes will be short in duration and occur infrequently.

“Queue lengths in excess of seven cars during the morning peak are not expected to unduly influence on‐site vehicle circulation as KFC and Taco Bell are typically closed in the morning as they do not serve breakfast.”

However, if the outlets are built then there could be changes at the nearby intersection of Old Airport Road and Range Lake Road, which the study says is nearing capacity at some hours of day. The work proposed involves lengthening the left-turn area on Old Airport Road leading up to Range Lake Road, which would cost $100,000 – of which the City is on the hook for $63,000 (something else councillors need to consider).

What will the place actually look like if the outlets are built?

Here’s a top-down schematic from Monday’s council agenda:

A schematic from a presentation to city councillors shows proposed locations of three new fast food outlets in Yellowknife.

Taco Bell is at the bottom, Starbucks on the left, and KFC on the right, each with a separate drive-through. Old Airport Road is on the far right, with the Franklin Avenue intersection off the bottom of the image and the Range Lake Road intersection off the top.

Combined, the three restaurants will have parking stalls for 43 vehicles (three being barrier-free). There’ll be space for nine bikes, too, in case cycling there makes you feel better about your KFC.

Still wondering where, exactly, this is? Check the City-issued map below. The lot at the centre of the yellow bubble is the lot where the three outlets would be built. The big building on the centre-right is the Independent grocery store.

A City-issued map showing the proposed location of three new fast food outlets in Yellowknife
A City-issued map showing the proposed location of three new fast food outlets in Yellowknife.

But wait, I have questions about the menu! The opening hours! The big bucket sign!

Patience. Councillors have to review all of the above and sign off on it before anything can go ahead. We are well off knowing for sure what the menu options will be like, or the pricing, or the stores’ hours.

If you’re wondering who is operating these new outlets, we don’t know for sure. The property owner is Les Rocher but that doesn’t necessarily make him the franchisee. (Only Taco Bell and KFC are technically franchises. Starbucks rarely franchises its stores in North America; what you’ll end up with is what’s called a “licensed store” instead.)

As for that big KFC bucket sign that used to adorn the old downtown Yellowknife KFC? It was last spotted in the custody of Independent Electrical Services, the company charged with dismantling it, back in 2015. At the time, the company’s owner was thinking of turning it into a hot tub.

(If you know better than us and have updated KFC bucket sign info, let us know.)