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Less parking for more people
City's draft General Plan suggests more residents living and working downtown mean fewer cars

Nicole Veerman
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The city's draft General Plan suggests infilling the city's downtown, while reducing the number of parking lots and stalls, leaving residents to question how more people equals fewer cars.

"More infill is going to generate more parking requirements," said resident Margaret Marshall, during a public forum at city hall Monday night.

"If you are going to infill, that concept of where that parking is going to be is extremely important."

About 25 residents gathered to give city administration feedback on the draft General Plan. The city reviews the plan every five years, as is required by the territorial government. The plan provides the city with a vision for growth and development over the next 10 years.

The most recent draft suggests the city's population will grow by about 3,000 people during that period, which means there will be a need for about 1,385 more homes. The plan suggests 346 of those could be developed in the city's downtown.

Referencing that number, another resident at the public forum told administration they need to accommodate those people and current residents with an appropriate number of parking spots.

"You need some parking in downtown for people if you go shopping," she said. "When it's -40 C, I won't bike there. If I need to buy something ... if there's no parking downtown, guess where I will go when it's minus 40? I won't go downtown."

The plan says the city may consider reducing requirements for off-street parking through zoning bylaws. This could be done by providing shared parking arrangements or by substituting parking spots with bicycle spaces, among other things.

Bob Long, the city's senior administrator, said if people work and live downtown, then they won't need a car - even if it is 40 below. He said it's less about people shopping and more about those working there.

"The theory is you densify the people that live there; you encourage them to walk to work and walk to play, so they live close to where they work, so you don't need a parking stall for them," he said.

"That's the theory and I know it's cold here in the winter, but I walk to work everyday even in the winter, so it's possible to do it, but, I know, it means we're all going to have to change the way we live."

Upon hearing Long's explanation, Ann Wind questioned how that theory works when there is nowhere to shop downtown.

"How are the people going to do shopping when the downtown core in Yellowknife is dying?" she asked. "They're going to need a car to get to Kam Lake."

Long said the theory is that if residents live downtown and shop downtown, then stores will open to accommodate those people.

"The businesses will do much better because people live there," he said.

Another public forum to discuss the General Plan will be held at city hall this evening beginning at 6:30 p.m. All of the feedback the city receives will be considered during the revision process.

The plan will then be presented to council for first reading.

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