Hay River is expecting its population to skyrocket from just over 3,500 people up to 6,000 in the next five years, thanks to new developments creating jobs in the area.
The figure comes from the Town of Hay River's latest community plan, which was published this August by consultant David Klippenstein and Associates.
Judy Goucher, the Town's senior administrative officer, confirmed Hay River is now actively planning for a population of 5,000 to 6,000 residents – despite having had a stable population for the past 30 years.
"We've been working with the territorial government and their economic modellers," said Goucher.
"Based on potential job creation within the immediate vicinity of the municipality, and within the municipality, that's the type of growth estimates they have indicated will come if those jobs are forthcoming."
The NWT's Community Planning and Development Act requires communities to have plans that manage land use, taking into account "sustainability, the environment, and the economic, social and cultural development of the community."
Goucher noted the territorial government's plans to build a long-term care facility and a fish plant – both of which are new facilities, not replacements – will bring plenty of new jobs to Hay River.
She also pointed to the neighbouring community of Enterprise, 40 km to the south. There, former Hay River mayor Brad Mapes plans to open a wood pellet plant and a logistics facility to haul bulk product, like diesel, up by rail for delivery to the mines.
And 90 km to the east, Osisko Metals is hoping to open a zinc and lead mine in the former mining community of Pine Point.
The plan also mentions the "re-invigorated marine transportation facility," agricultural business, and cultural tourism as opportunities for growth.
"Just with those handful of things, we see over the next five years considerable opportunity for growth within the community and the South Slave as a whole," said Goucher.
She said while none of the projects are up and running yet, they are all in the process of getting permitted or getting started, so the town believes its goal of 6,000 residents is "a realistic target."
"It's not quite a doubling of our population, but it's a significant growth ... and we need to plan ahead not only for available residential land, but other infrastructure that comes with it," Goucher told Cabin Radio.
Creating new jobs means the town will need more housing, which is why Hay River's council is already rezoning areas as residential so lots can be sold.
"If all projects were to occur within a short time period, the cumulative impact could be to place a great strain on the Town’s infrastructure, land, and financial capability," reads the community plan, noting there are "very few, if any, residential lots available [currently]."
Goucher said Fraser Place and Aspen Heights have been identified as the first residential expansion areas, followed by the Sundog/Evergreen area. The combined population potential for those areas ranges from 1,400 to 2,050, depending on the sizes of the lots. Hay River also sees redevelopment opportunities near the Commercial Core (Disneyland) and on Vale Island.
"The Town will provide additional land for multi-unit residential units in new development areas to meet the need for multi-unit housing, promote higher development densities, provide affordable housing units and keep infrastructure costs lower," reads the plan, which repeatedly stresses the need for high-density housing.
Hay River's highrise, which was the highest-density building in town, is still closed following a fire in March.
Hay River's highrise remains closed following a fire in March. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
The community plan goes on to outline how Hay River will manage industrial and commercial land, as well as general policies related to municipal land.
Goucher said the Town has completed its second reading of the plan, which is now with the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs for approval before council completes a third reading.