Little lots on the tundra
Residents, developers examine proposed subdivision
A small group of residents and developers gathered at city hall this week to check out plans for a new subdivision.
On Sept. 16, Chrystal Fuller, the city’s director of lands and planning, unveiled detailed maps of the proposed subdivision, which would extend from the Road to Nowhere subdivision and wrap around a small lake.
The new development, being dubbed Lake subdivision, will contain up to 65 housing and apartment units and is being fast-tracked to get construction started next year.
“We’re trying to respond to the need for land right now,” Fuller told the group.
City administration and council have come under fire from residents and developers for the lack of land for housing in Iqaluit.
Lake subdivision is the city’s answer to that demand.
City planners envision a subdivision that would include a variety of housing types, including single-family homes, duplexes, four-plexes, six-plexes and townhouses.
Fuller was quick to point out the lots for single-family dwellings are only 16 metres wide by 37 metres deep. She said they’re small compared to lots in the Road to Nowhere subdivision, which are 24 metres wide.
But the city deliberately made the lots that size. “Smaller lots are going to be cheaper,” she said. “The point here is to make these lots more affordable.”
Still, Fuller wanted to know if the lot size would be a problem for potential homeowners and building developers. “People want to make sure there’s adequate space on there to do the things they like to do, like having Skidoos,” she admitted.
“They do seem small,” one resident said. “It does seem like a crowded housing situation.”
The lands department wants to do some innovative things with the area, including protecting the space around the small lake and putting in walking trails and snowmobile trails.
“I’m pleased as punch about the Skidoo trails,” Fuller told the audience. “Hunters go through there a lot and we’re not at all planning to block them from going where they want to go.”
Several residents applauded the city’s idea to preserve the snowmobile trails, but questioned the logic behind running the trail between two housing lots. They warned that the city might have trouble selling those lots because people would be wary of living in a noisy area.
In response, Fuller joked: “Maybe we can put a sign up there that says “Please go quietly before 7 a.m.’”
Despite some minor concerns, the eight people who came out to the meeting seemed impressed with the proposed subdivision.
Local developer Kenn Harper, vice-president of Northern Property Real Estate Investment Trust (formerly Urbco Ltd.), said it was about time the city made more land available.
“I think the demand is there. I think there’s a tremendous demand,” Harper said.
But he was concerned that the subdivision has room for only 65 units, especially considering that very little housing was built in the city this year.
“I think this is small. It may be too small. But I recognize it’s a short timeline. For God’s sake do it for next summer,” Harper told the lands department.
But at least one local building developer questioned why the city is spearheading the new subdivision – and not private builders.
Steve Cook, president of Nunastar Properties Inc., said “This is really a developer’s business. Should we be looking at a different approach to this?”
Cook said he thinks the city would be wise to get out of the building business and wondered if Iqaluit’s rate payers, through their taxes, should have to pay for construction of the new subdivision.
“The shareholders of Iqaluit, which are the rate payers, do you get a sense they really want to risk their money on a development like this?” Cook asked.
Rick Butler, the city’s administrative officer, pointed out that city planners already looked into the idea of having private companies build the subdivision.
If the city went with a private developer, the developer, not the city, would finance the building costs. But the administration didn’t want to take that approach because the city has never done that before and wasn’t sure how it would work.
On top of that, city planners want to get the subdivision rolling quickly and not get tangled up in working out a public-private partnership.
“We also wonder why is the city into such a sophisticated business such as a private development,” Butler said. “But to deliver this subdivision through that partnership, given the vagrancies of the lease system, meant we couldn’t get it together as fast as we wanted to.”
City planners will take residents’ and developers’ comments to their engineers to see if they can incorporate changes into the design of the subdivision.