After months of debate and scrutiny, Yellowknife has a new zoning bylaw. City councillors on Monday night unanimously voted in favour of the new legislation.
The bylaw regulates the control and development of land within the municipality, including where certain types of homes and businesses can be built. The city overhauled the document to match a broader community plan, adopted in 2020, that guides development in Yellowknife over the next 20 years.
“I overall am quite happy with where we’ve gotten,” Councillor Julian Morse said. “I do believe the zoning bylaw as a whole is a good one for our community and a good thing for our community.”
“I’m really happy with it.” Mayor Rebecca Alty told Cabin Radio. “It’s really progressive, particularly when it comes to housing.”
Not all residents are as content. Some believe the new rules could see their neighbourhoods change.
Morse said city staff and councillors received hundreds of emails, texts and messages about the proposed changes, along with input at public hearings. Debate among residents focused on mixed-use zoning, which will allow homes and businesses to co-exist in some neighbourhoods.
City staff and some residents hail that change as a move toward modernization and environmental sustainability that allows for more affordable housing, entrepreneurship and support for vulnerable people. Others worry it will negatively impact their neighbourhoods and residential experience, and limit their ability to provide input on developments next door.
Based on residents’ input, councillors made 18 amendments to the bylaw on Monday night.
Changes included restricting the height of second detached dwellings so they can’t be higher than the principal dwelling.
Some land uses were removed from RC-1, a derivative of a zone dubbed “residential central” near the city’s downtown that has been tweaked several times during the bylaw’s development. Commercial recreation and food and beverage services in the RC-1 zone are now discretionary, meaning city council will have to approve them first. Convenience stores and commercial urban agriculture will not be permitted in the area.
At Monday’s meeting, Councillor Niels Konge reminded residents the bylaw is a “living document” subject to change.
“We are making this document the best that we can to our ability today,” he said.
“There have been some members of the public that have been upset,” Konge acknowledged. “They don’t feel that we’ve heard them or they don’t feel that our public consultation has been open and transparent.
“Usually that’s because they’re not getting what they wanted, which is fine, but this is set in stone now, today, for what we think is the best. As we grow and learn more, there will be changes and amendments to this bylaw.”
According to Mayor Alty, between 2008 and 2020, the previous zoning bylaw was amended 79 times.
She said on Monday the new legislation aims to balance preserving the character of neighbourhoods with growth and development.
“I don’t know if we’ve achieved the perfect balance but I do think we are further ahead than we were before, with the old zoning bylaw,” she said.
Alty said regulations, coupled with territorial and federal laws, will prevent people’s “worst nightmares” about their neighbourhoods coming true.
She gave the example of a 45-metre building. While allowed in the residential central zone in the bylaw, such a height would not be permitted on one lot as it would not comply with parking regulations.