With a projected population boom of 2,500 new people in the next five years, Hay River is making preparations for work that will turn a section of central green space into a residential area.
The Town of Hay River recently approved money for a geotechnical assessment at the proposed Fraser Place sub-division. That work will be done in early 2020.
Once the results are in, a public meeting will be held to discuss the proposed development and an associated zoning change.
Fraser Place, also known as the Hay River nature park, was identified in the mid-2000s as an ideal residential expansion area – but some residents remain worried about losing green space. When the Town posted a notice of the geotechnical assessment to Facebook, there were questions about what the assessment would involve and its impact on the area.
“A geotechnical assessment involves drilling into the ground to collect samples and then analyzing these samples to get a better understanding of the ground conditions in the area,” Mike Auge, the Town's director of public works, wrote to Cabin Radio by email.
Auge explained information gathered will help to develop recommendations for foundation design, looking at slope stability, groundwater, and permafrost conditions.
Town staff and contractors will try to minimize impacts on the green space during the assessment, Auge added.
“There will be some minor brushing work necessary in order to access drilling locations, but these locations will be chosen to minimize any potential impact while still collecting the required samples,” he said.
The exact locations of test holes, and the size of the drill to be used, remain to be decided.
“Until this information is finalized by the contractor, we can’t confirm the full extent of impact on the environment,” Auge continued. The Town will update residents as it receives information from the contractor.
In total, the work should take two to three days to complete. The Town expects to receive a report six weeks later.
“When the design is complete, the Town will call a public meeting to discuss the planned development and proposed zoning changes," administrators wrote in a Facebook post. "Our goal is to provide you with factual information on which to make informed decisions.
“We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work to address our shortage of residential land supply.”
Not all of the Fraser Place area is intended for development.
Part of the area, including the town's two ballparks and an area south of the ball diamonds, remains zoned as open space in current plans. 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 previously told Cabin Radio there was once an ambition to build a school there, which has been superseded by the demand for housing.
Estimates incorporated into the latest community plan suggest new industries opening up in the region will drive an influx of thousands of people in the coming years.