Should Hay River's Fraser Place wooded area remain green space for residents or become much-needed space for new homes as the town's population grows?
That question was highlighted by a post to Hay River's community announcements Facebook page earlier this month.
The area, also known as the Hay River nature park, sits next to the river off Fraser Place, near the Super A.
On Facebook, at least one resident expressed concern that they felt the Town of Hay River had not clearly identified the space as a high-priority area for development. However, the Town's community plan – which was released earlier in August – suggests otherwise.
Regardless, some residents called for more community meetings while others worried about the potential loss of green space.
Fraser Place has been identified as an ideal area for development ahead of Hay River's projected population boom over the next few years. Town staff believe the lots will be highly desirable, as they will have a view of the river and will be located just outside the downtown core.
"The proposed use of the land for Fraser Place residential development has not changed since the first publicly released draft of the community plan," confirmed Glenn Smith, the Town of Hay River's assistant senior administrative officer.
Smith said a map circulating on Facebook was not developed by the Town. Hay River's official maps can be found here.
"[Fraser Place] continues to be an area meant to partially address the community’s demand for housing development," he said.
Hay River held a community plan public consultation on June 18. Conversation about Fraser Place dominated the conversation, according to the meeting minutes (see page two).
RJ Simpson, at the time the MLA representing Hay River North, expressed concern that the trail system running through the green space would be eliminated. He recommended preserving it if the area is developed.
Richard Lafferty, representing West Point First Nation, said there was not enough consultation with the First Nation. According to the minutes, Lafferty said the Town was in contravention of its memorandum of understanding – and the Deh Cho Process – and suggested more work was required from the Town and Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.
The community plan
"Initial planning was completed in the mid-2000s for three residential expansion areas all located in New Town: Evergreen, Aspen Heights, and Fraser Place," reads the community plan, which passed second reading on August 13 and has been sent for ministerial approval before third reading takes place.
Part of the Fraser Place area, including the town's two ballparks and an area south of the ball diamonds, remains zoned as open space in the plan. That is not scheduled to change.
The other half of the area, which is wooded and features recreational trails, is currently zoned as institutional. Town administrator Judy Goucher told Cabin Radio in mid-August there had at one time been an ambition to build a school there.
"Based on current enrolments, it's looking like we're not going to need any new school facilities in the near to mid-term, and we are in need of residential areas," she said.
Surrounding that institutional land is commissioner's land that was recently transferred to the Town. Pending the results of geotechnical work, the Town plans to rezoned the area as residential.
After the work is done, next steps will include rolling out a concept design and holding more opportunities for public input, Goucher noted.
Right now, the Town expects the land to accommodate 20 single units "while still preserving the environmental setting of the area."
In another section of the plan, the Town stated future residential areas would "provide sufficient local parks and recreation space for future residents that are easily accessible and visible from the street."
At least 10 percent of land in or beside residential areas will be reserved for parks and open space.