The process of rezoning an area of Hay River to allow development of new homes moved forward this week as councillors read an amended bylaw for the second time.
Though some residents say the proposed development of Fraser Place will remove valuable green space, the town says the 29 units to be created are necessary to support a population boom projected in the coming years.
A public consultation about the development took place last week.
Glenn Smith, Hay River’s senior administrative officer, said the main concerns heard related to removal of green space, the impact on traffic, and access to the river. Fraser Place is presently a largely wooded area beside the Hay River.
“It’s so valuable for the community, it’s the only green space we have and the whole landscape would be dominated,” said Joli Bauer, a Hay River resident who opposes the development of Fraser Place.
“We need to have green space. We’ve had Covid and we need to get outside,” Bauer told Cabin Radio. “We need to have ways of relaxing and relieving stress.”
Bauer said she recognizes the decision is difficult for councillors. She asked for more housing options to be made available in other areas of the town.
Council documents show other residents are worried about the disruption of the local ecosystem and a potential loss of trail access, while some have voiced concern that even pressing ahead with the development will not meet the town’s housing needs.
Smith said the town had already worked to address some of those concerns.
He said approximately 65 percent of the green space around Fraser Place will remain, including access to walking trails in the area.
“The design for Fraser Place maintains public access to the trail system and maintains a significant portion of the trails and forested area that currently exists. The existing uses of the area as a recreational location will be maintained and access will be available to all Hay River residents,” council documents state.
Smith said properties to be built won’t be located right beside the river, so access to the river won’t be cut off.
Future of housing in Hay River?
Smith acknowledged more general concern about the lack of available housing in Hay River.
“We have zero residential inventory for land and the prospect of economic growth,” he said.
Hay River expects its population to increase significantly because a new fish plant is set to be built, a nearby pellet mill and industrial complex in Enterprise is slowly expanding, a long-term healthcare facility is planned, and the former Pine Point mine is entering the environmental assessment process ahead of its potential return to life.
“There’s a real need for housing within the community. It’s not a good position to be in,” Smith said.
Hay River South MLA Rocky Simpson earlier this month told the legislature he wanted to see the town’s highrise reopened to residents. The highrise has been closed for two years, displacing more than 100 people, after a fire in March 2019.
Smith said the town is looking to the Aspen Heights and Sundog/Evergreen areas for future expansion beyond Fraser Place.
A third reading of the rezoning bylaw must take place before work on Fraser Place can begin. Earlier this year, councillors were told construction could start before the end of 2021.