Eco-friendly subdivision could add to Iqaluit traffic woes

Walking, snowmobile trails partially offset bottleneck on Apex Road



Increased traffic flow problems and pollution of the city’s water supply were the only concerns raised during a presentation on the new “sustainable subdivision” proposed for the plateau area in Iqaluit by a team of consultants working on the project.

Members of city council’s planning and engineering committee watched a PowerPoint slide show Tuesday on the proposed development, which would run about 600 metres uphill from City Hall and 400 metres uphill from the Arctic College student residences.

The subdivision is being touted as “sustainable,” meaning the new residential development will encourage environmentally friendly building practices. New housing units there will have to be energy-efficient, face south and have enclosed porches to prevent heat loss.

The $14.2 million sustainable subdivision is to start the first of five phases next summer, opening up space for about 100 new units – 30 single family lots, 30 medium density lots for rowhouses, or four to six unit buildings, and 40 apartment units in mixed-use buildings with commercial space on the ground floor. Phase two and three will see 80 and 75 new units respectively.

As part of a feasibility study, consultants estimate that Iqaluit will need between 80 and 90 new units a year if its population reaches the highest projected estimate of about 12,000 by 2020.

The city is already in the midst of a housing crisis, with the few units available fetching high prices. This development, aside from two available lots in Apex, is the only new subdivision planned for the city.

The main access road to the proposed subdivision would run behind Arctic College off Saputi Road, which continues to the power plant. A secondary access road is planned to run from the new justice centre, but in a later phase of development.

Councillor Nancy Gillis voiced concern that access off the road to Apex would add to what is already a traffic nightmare for people trying to get home for lunch and after work.

“How can traffic be redirected to solve this problem?” she asked Steve Burden, the project team leader.

Burden explained that the transit system would be running in the subdivision and bus shelters have been built into the cost of the plan. Also, primary and secondary walking trails are incorporated into the plan, as are snowmobile routes.

“Realistically, people are still going to have vehicles,” Gillis replied.

Councillor Simanuk Kilabuk worried that construction would interfere with or pollute the city’s water supply, which comes from Lake Geraldine, near the proposed site. He asked Burden whether a fence or protective barrier would be erected to help.

“We have maintained a 30-metre buffer zone as required by the general plan,” Burden replied, and added that good building practices will be ensured. No fence is planned, as the buffer zone itself is to act as a barrier.

A consultant has been studying the energy efficiency of homes in Iqaluit for the team and is finding that most are quite energy-efficient already, but will present draft guidelines in early October for city council to approve.

The roads in the subdivision have all been aligned to take advantage of the north-northwest winds to help keep snow off the roads.

In each phase, Burden explained, certain lots will be set aside for those willing to meet more stringent development standards.

In Phase 1 this will include two public lots, one mixed lot and one “cluster” (a group of dwellings built close to each other, with some shared services, such as parking). This “raises the bar” Burden suggested, and can act as a model to others showing that energy-efficiency living can be done easily.

The lots are currently estimated to cost about $50,000 for Phase 1 (the lots at the Lake Subdivision cost $47,600 in 2003), but Burden said the team is suggesting Iqaluit change its pricing policy to allow more attractive lots to be priced higher, allowing other lots to be slightly cheaper.

After extensive consultations last spring with local participants and parties from a variety of planning backgrounds, the team incorporated wishes for unimpeded views of the ocean and maximum sun exposure, as well as keeping the traditional berry-picking lands below the proposed site untouched and buffered by extra land.

City council will decide in late October whether to approve plans for the new subdivision.

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