No floatplanes at the new park
Despite being named after a Yellowknife aviation pioneer, the new waterfront park near the Wildcat Cafe will be floatplane-free.
On Monday night, City Council voted to allow only non-motorized vessels to dock at the tiny Hank Koenen Park on Wiley Rd., which is currently under construction. This decision came after a years-long debate pitting the NWT Floatplane Association against the Great Slave Yacht Club over safety issues.
“We do not really believe use of the site by such a small number of aircraft with limited movements presents a significant safety issue, certainly not enough to prohibit itinerant parking,” said NWT Floatplane Association association president Hal Logsdon, who argued the site should be made available to visiting floatplane pilots.
The arguments for letting floatplanes and motorized vessels use the new docks won over Coun. Steve Payne and Coun. Niels Konge.
“We’ve heard there’s plenty of places for non-motorized vessels to dock… so I’m not sure why we’re not working closely to achieve something a user group [the Floatplane Association] has wanted for 10 years,” said Konge. “I think we as a city, we’ve basically ignored this group of people.”
The rest of council, however, was not convinced.
For Coun. Julian Morse, it was a matter of trying to solve Yellowknife’s floatplane docking issue in a less piecemeal way: “If we try to save all the needs of the waterfront with this little park… what we’re going to end up with is a solution that doesn’t provide well for any of the needs.”
Although floatplanes won’t be allowed, the ban on motorized vessels may end up being a moot point. As Jeff Humble, the City’s director of planning and development, put it: “MED does not have a boat to enforce or tow vehicles, nor do we have a water lot compound that we could store boats that could be towed.”
City administration's plan to make three long-vacant lots in Niven Lake more appealing to developers by upping their density and lowering their price was also rejected by council on Monday. Rather than going with admin’s suggestion, council decided to reassess the property values before doing anything else — even though Redcliff Developments, which has built 16 units on a nearby lot, had expressed interest in one of the lots if the City agreed to lower the price by 15 percent and allow more units on it.
The charge against admin’s motion was led by Konge, who argued all three lots should be assessed by third-party professionals to determine their current value — the last appraisal happened in 2012 — and that the neighbours should be consulted about the proposed density increases.
While Konge’s argument won out, and seems, at face value, to be fair, council’s decision to reassess the properties rather than proceed with administration’s plan may have significant repercussions.
Humble explained the 15 percent price reduction administration was proposing was allowable only because appraisers in 2012 had given a value range rather than an exact value, something that won’t happen again. Humble: “If you go forward with an updated appraisal, regardless of what that appraisal is, you have no range, you have to go with whatever that appraisal is, whether it’s higher or lower, there’s no discretion.”
“I’d caution you think about that,” he continued. “If the price comes in higher, the lot prices will be higher than they are now… That’s one of the dilemmas that [the previous developer which went bankrupt] had. They put a super low density in on a site that costs a lot of money to service, so the per unit price to make it marketable just wasn’t there. And I think that’s one of the challenges we’re going to have if it’s not adjusted and the price stays the same. Who knows, somebody may come up and purchase it, but it may be five or ten years before we sell off these parcels.”
Discrimination against disabled kids?
The executive director of the NWT Disabilities Council says the City is discriminating against disabled children after the City cut grants for the Disabilities Council's summer camp assistance program by $9000 this year.
The program, which saw its City funding drop from $27,000 to $18,000, provides one-on-one assistants to accompany children with disabilities to summer camps, most of which are run by the City.
“When children with disabilities and their families say they want to attend a City camp or another summer camp and can’t because of their disability, you are not an accessible city, you are not inclusive,” said Denise McKee during Monday’s meeting. She argued that properly funding the program was not only the right thing to do, but also legally required, given that the NWT has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This requires, she argued, that the City makes all “necessary and appropriate modification… not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden in a particular case, to ensure persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis to others of fundamental rights and freedoms.”
In the end, council ratified the approved grant amounts, leaving the Disabilities Council with one-third less than last year. But councillors seemed interested in ensuring the program was fully funded in the future and directed administration to see what was legally required.
“To me it seems rather straightforward. It should be a priority, especially for City-run camps,” said Coun. Shauna Morgan.