The proposed Fraser Place residential land development has been controversial for years, and it remained so at a March 17 public consultation on rezoning a section of the so-called Hay River Nature Park to make way for the new lots.
Mayor Kandis Jameson stated the Town of Hay River’s case for creating the 29 lots in the proposal.
“We currently have no residential-zoned properties in inventory,” she said, noting residential land is needed now and as the community grows.
Fraser Place can be quickly and easily developed, and at a relatively low cost, largely because it is next to existing piped water and sewer infrastructure, the mayor added, estimating the development cost at $3 million.
Jameson said another possible development known as Sundog, near the Hay River Regional Health Centre, would cost about $15 million.
The mayor acknowledged there are public concerns about the Fraser Place development in a popular wooded area.
“We’re preserving the majority of the trail system and hopefully as much of the habitat in that area that we can,” she said.
The public meeting was on rezoning part of the area from institutional and parks to residential, and also on the proposed design of the development near McBryan Drive, Stewart Drive and Morin Place.
The development would be primarily designed for single-family housing units, although there would be a list of discretionary uses.
Community resident Ken Boyer said developing 29 lots in Fraser Place is not going to solve Hay River’s long-term residential land problem, and the town is eventually going to have to develop the land near the health centre.
“My way of thinking, why put it off?” he said.
Joli Bauer, another community resident, said the concerns of people in the area were not listened to by the town, noting there was previously a petition and a committee formed against the Fraser Place development.
“I don’t know why you want to have us voice our concerns if you’re not going to consider it. Why ask for it?” said Bauer. “It was a waste of our time to try to make you realize that we don’t want that area developed for residential use. That area is beautiful the way it is.”
A number of concerns and objections were also raised by Rocky Simpson, a resident of the area and the MLA for Hay River South.
Simpson asked if the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) had played any role in determining if there would be an impact on migratory birds and animals.
Jameson said there was no study done by ENR, but the town follows the regulatory rules like anybody else.
Simpson asked about the possibility of public housing in Fraser Place.
“Was there any consideration given to that when looking at development or will some of these lots, say 50 per cent of them, be made available to the housing corporation so they can build public housing units to alleviate some of that waiting list,” he said.
Simpson said the “main problem” he sees with Fraser Place is that it’s probably meant more for those who can afford it, and offers nothing for lower-income people.
The MLA also questioned whether there was proper consultation with Indigenous groups, even though he recognized that the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) signed off on the town’s community plan, which includes Fraser Place.
“The community plan was in a consultation process by the town and by MACA, and it took a year,” Jameson said. “There was definitely consultation on that community plan.”
Anita Lenoir, manager of land planning and administration with the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation in Yellowknife, also raised concerns.
“When I look at this, I don’t see any lots that are zoned for semidetached or duplex or multiplexes, and there’s a real lack of that in this community,” said Lenoir.
Jameson said that would be discretionary uses under the proposed zoning.
A number of other issues were raised by people at the meeting, including the possibility of cost overruns, whether the lots would actually sell and if $3 million was a reasonable estimate for the cost of the development.
“We have had interest already,” Jameson said. “So there’s definitely interest out there in purchasing these lots.”
The mayor said the town received three written submissions on the proposed rezoning.
“The general concerns in them were negative impact on the area’s natural habitat and biodiversity, and the negative impact on health and recreation to residents who access the area,” she said.
The rezoning has already passed first reading at town council, and will now move on to consideration for second and third reading.