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Grace Lake South: How large do you want your lot?

Plans for new homes south of Yellowknife’s Grace Lake belong to “another century” according to one city councillor.

Councillor Dan Wong said the plans call for lots that are far too large for a modern city.

City administration is waiting for council approval before proceeding with a construction tender and beginning to market the soon-to-be-available lots. The development follows the popular Grace Lake North scheme, where the city says only one of 30 lots now remains unsold.

Grace Lake South, to be developed in three phases, will eventually offer 81 lots under current plans. The city notes these lots will be at the “high end of the housing market” but argues Grace Lake South will “increase housing choice [and] opportunities along the affordability spectrum”.

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Wong believes the area could easily accommodate twice as many lots. He argues the city is ‘wasting’ land.

In full: City of Yellowknife plans for Grace Lake South (pdf, p32-61)

“This is ultra-low density, the lowest density of development anywhere in the city,” said Wong at this week’s meeting of the city’s municipal services committee.

“Estate lots might have been popular in another century, but they’re something you see most cities moving away from. I’m not sure what happened to the smart growth plan but, to me, this looks like the opposite. It just seems like such a waste of valuable land.

“Why can’t we divide this land into more reasonable lot sizes? Why are we divvying it up into huge pieces? Why not divide these estate lots in half into something more like a regular detached size for Yellowknife? Then we could put 162 instead of 81 lots on the market.”

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The city says 15 people have already expressed an interest in buying one of the Grace Lake South lots – many of which are twice or three times the average size of a city lot.

“More interest is likely to be generated once rezoning is completed and road construction commences,” officials added in a briefing prepared for councillors.

Importantly, Grace Lake South lots will not offer direct access to the waterfront – in contrast to the Grace Lake North development. That’s because ownership of the land south of the lake is different. However, the city hopes to construct a trail network in the intervening space between the new lots and the lake.

[flexiblemap address=”Grace Lake, Yellowknife” title=”Grace Lake” zoom=”11″]

Councillor Cory Vanthuyne, defending the proposals, said the city had a duty to provide “choice for all our residents” in terms of housing.

“If we put ourselves in a position where we live and die by ideals such as smart growth, we’re only going to end up backing ourselves into a corner and that ends up creating a stagnation in the market,” said Vanthuyne.

“When you don’t free up land for detached housing, then there’s a cry from the community. There is a particular market housing chain that takes place. You have to be able to develop a detached home because somebody who might be in a modular or mobile home will move into that, then somebody who was in an apartment might move into a mobile home, and so on. That’s what frees up the market.

“The city has had requests for waterfront properties for decades and there are limited spaces, and limited lots, for that to be available. The ones down in Old Town are rarely sold by families that have been there for ever and ever.

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“We’ve seen just recently with the line-up for the recreational lots out at the Ingraham Trail. That shows the residents are looking for access to nature and the land.”

Vanthuyne concluded: “I will be in full support of Grace Lake South.”

The plans also include a lease for a second city golf course, set to be constructed in the next five years. The course, if approved, will be operated by Darwin Rudkevitch and his company, Arctic Farmer.

The new nine-hole course is expected to feature natural grass throughout, as opposed to Yellowknife’s current sand-based 18-hole course.

This week, Rudkevitch told Edge YK he has already begun to develop several holes in advance of receiving the necessary permits to open a course.

Councillors appeared broadly in favour of proposals for the new golf facility at Monday’s meeting.

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