Some Hay River residents, worried about their town’s proposal to turn parts of a central green space into a residential area, recently submitted two petitions to their mayor and councillors.
One petition calls for the creation of a Hay River Nature Park to preserve the wooded area, known as Fraser Place. The other requests a new round of public consultation on the Town of Hay River’s community plan prior to the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs granting the plan final approval.
“Significant changes were made by the Town of Hay River to the community plan after the closing of the public consultation process,” the second petition alleges. “The changes that the Town proposed were not advertised to the public prior to the consultation or prior to the second reading. This is an unfair approach to community engagement.”
Judy Goucher, the Town’s senior administrative officer, told Cabin Radio more public meetings will take place before the land in question is rezoned and developed to create more residential areas.
Goucher said the Town has followed the process required by legislation.
To simplify: the community plan passed first reading, the Town completed engagements with stakeholders and revised the plan, the plan passed second reading, and then it was sent off for a ministerial stamp of approval prior to third reading.
Some residents feel frustrated they didn’t get to respond to a second draft of the plan before it went to second reading. The petitions were submitted just after the Town announced it had approved money for a geotechnical assessment of the green space early next year.
“The geotechnical work will help determine the footprint available to develop,” Goucher wrote to Cabin Radio on November 5.
At a council meeting in late October, Goucher noted, Councillor Keith Dohey said he felt Fraser Place had room for both housing development and a forested area with trails (the meeting’s minutes are not yet publicly available).
“This sentiment has been expressed by previous councils as well, and a completed design will provide a better picture of what is being proposed by the Town,” she continued.
Goucher said the land had been identified in 2005 as an area for future development, and work on Fraser Place had been approved as a capital project during a public meeting in March. A professional planner was contracted to update the community plan.
“The community plan that passed first reading was our ‘document of record’ for consultation. It was anticipated that there would be changes to the plan between first and second reading coming out of consultation and incorporating input from the new council,” Goucher said.
She listed meetings with the West Point First Nation, Hay River Métis Government Council, and Kátł’odeeche First Nation, alongside a public meeting, and receipt of written feedback on the plan during the consultation period.
In the Town’s meeting minutes following a June 18 public consultation, a West Point First Nation member told council there had not been enough consultation.
Following the first round of engagement sessions, the plan was updated and presented to councillors in August for a second reading.
Goucher said the changes included “updates from all consultation sessions and council priorities.”
The plan passed second reading on August 13 and has been sent for ministerial approval before the third reading is completed.