Some neighbours of the planned Fraser Place development expressed frustration last week as the Town of Hay River cleared trees from the area.
Acting public works director Earle Dumas reported to the municipality’s Standing Committee of Council on April 4 that tree falling and clearing had been done with nearly 20 loads carried out of the area in anticipation of excavation.
On March 16, council approved a tender to Blackstone Homes for $3.17 million to begin preparation for 29 housing lots.
Work was to include clearing of the area, installation of underground utilities and preparation of a road base prior to lot sales.
Senior administrative officer Glenn Smith said the contract does not include the actual building of homes.
“This phase of construction is planned to be completed this year,” he said. “Lots in general will be available for development in 2023. Lot sales could start as early as this year.”
John Stanga Sr., who has lived directly adjacent to the area being cleared since 1985, was out of town when it happened but said in an interview Medicine Hat that the situation is disappointing.
“I was for the development as council had put it out, though some people weren’t,” he said. “I thought that we needed more development and the town had a nice plan.
“But not once in any meeting did the town ever talk about clear-cutting it and that’s what they’ve done. They’ve done a clear cut of every tree.”
Stanga Sr. said he only learned the extent of the tree removal when talking with Patterson Sawmill, which was subcontracted to do the cutting.
“If council put this out to the public, I missed it,” he said. “It seems they came up with one plan and then did something completely different.
“It’s a disappointment from the council.”
Cindy Haley, another neighbour who has lived in a house backing onto the property for 43 years, was even more opposed to the situation.
She said that a longtime fight among residents to stop development and protect greenspace has now been lost.
“We have fought to try and keep it as a greenspace because really, we don’t have a lot of greenspace in town that’s accessible to people,” she said. “You have to go out of town to go for a walk in the trees and who wants to do that?
“They took a lot of trees down and, so far, there’s a little bit of space. But they took down most of the spruce that would have given us more of a shield and have so far left some birch and stuff.
“It’s really disappointing that council has so little regard to greenspace and our old-growth trees.”
Haley said she has been watching birds and some appear to be trying to find areas to nest.
Her ultimate fear is that the open space will now sit dormant because she doesn’t believe people will be able to afford the lots.
The Hub was unsuccessful in reaching neighbours in support of the project to go on the record this week, however, a March 28 Facebook post by the municipality about the development garnered some positive reaction.
“Thank you town and council for being committed to the growth and expansion of this town,” wrote Shannon Sanguez. “Thank you for creating space and opportunity for hardworking, dedicated community members to find their forever home. There will always be differing opinions and always be objections.
“Know that there are people who support you and your decisions, we just aren’t quite as loud and don’t have time, energy or desire to engage with all the negativity and criticism.”
Brendan Cook also posted his support.
Right on,” he said. “New development is what Hay River needs to attract people. Can’t wait to see this happen. Thanks to everyone involved.”
Fraser Place is off of McBryan Drive, beside the Hay River baseball fields and nature park, and close to the downtown core.