Old Town paving project may need to wait for washroom decision, say Yellowknife councillors

The City of Yellowknife is considering whether to go ahead with paving the parking lot at the entrance to Old Town at School Draw Avenue this year, but councillors said starting early could cost more in the long run.

Council approved money in 2017 for paving lot at entrance to Old Town

The Franklin/School Draw lot is a triangle of barren, unpaved land presently used for parking almost by default. Money has been set aside to pave the lot this year, but some city councillors say the project should be held until decisions are made on a public washroom on the site. (Ollie Williams/CBC)

The City of Yellowknife's Municipal Services Committee meet Monday to discuss whether to go ahead with paving the parking lot at the entrance to Old Town at School Draw Avenue this year, but councillors raised concerns that starting that early could cost more in the long run.

Council approved $265,000 in the 2017 budget for the grading, paving and rearranging the area, which would include 24 parking spots.

A proposed design of the area — which has yet to be approved — shows additions like a possible tourism booth for the winter, landscaping and a public washroom.

A sketch of the proposed parking lot and gateway node from the City of Yellowknife's consultation report. Space for a sculpture and public washroom can be seen in the top right corner. (City of Yellowknife)

But the latter has raised concerns with councillors.  

Coun. Niels Konge said if the City wants to build a washroom on the lot, it should postpone the paving this year.

"If we pave it and then we put in a bathroom later, we're going to be redoing the paving and that is a waste of resources," he said.

"I think we need to make that decision whether or not we're going to need water and sewer way over there before we approve the paving," he said.

Coun. Linda Bussey agreed.

"If we're already thinking that we might need to do some alterations to the location, why are we moving ahead with paving?"

Konge noted that there is already a lift station in the area with water, sewer and power, and suggested the City build onto that facility instead of constructing a new building for a washroom.

Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the City's senior administrative officer, said that's a detail they would consider in the 2018 budget, but recommended council still approve the paving for this year.

"It's been a long-standing interest from the community to see this area laid out and utilized effectively for boat and trailer parking," she said, adding it would be important for tourism.

"We've seen a real rise in popularity [in Old Town] from people driving down and wanting to go to the shops and galleries and the Brew Pub and other good restaurants in the area. We do see that parking is an issue that we need to address."

Though unpaved, the large triangular area at the bottom of Old Town hill has been used as a parking lot for boat trailers and vehicles for years.

A public washroom was not originally planned for the node, but the City received 20 additional comments during public consultations in favour of a bathroom in that area.

According to city staff, the cost of installing a "modern, unisex self-cleaning public washroom" can cost from $250,000 to $400,000.

The issue will next go before council for consideration.

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