Hazelton releases draft long-term community plan

The Village of Hazelton wants sustainable development which evades the impacts of a boom and bust cycle, according to its community plan.

Protecting Hazelton from the impacts of a boom and bust cycle by approaching the resources industry with caution is part of the vision outlined in the village’s draft Official Community Plan (OCP), presented at its council meeting on Jan. 13.

Sustainable development is a prominent theme throughout the document, which summarizes the village’s long-term approach to land-use and planning.

If adopted after its third presentation to council, which is required by law, the document will replace the last OCP passed in 1997.

Mayor Alice Maitland said Hazelton’s vision had not changed drastically since the last OCP was adopted, however the new document cites the social impacts of the economic downturn and the declining forest industry as reasons to focus on building a more sustainable economy.

“The area commonly referred to as ‘the Hazeltons’ is arguably still going through the effects of the declining forest industry,” the OCP reads.

“The result is a sense of ‘survival resourcefulness’ and resiliency.

“In the chaos of economic downturn and unemployment, the social fabric of the community appears to have remained stable.

“On the flip side, the entire commercial tax base has dwindled to 11 service/commercial (stores and restaurants) establishments.”

As a result, the document says the village is currently relying on health and education institutes to provide essential services and employment to buoy the local economy.

It says the sense of “survival resourcefulness” and resiliency is a defence mechanism against the “boom and bust” resource-based economy.

Mayor Maitland said the village wanted to avoid a repeat of what happened when the local forestry industry collapsed.

“We really want to be working towards a sustainable community and not to get involved with things that come for a flash in the pan kind of thing because we find they are so, almost toxic, when they end,” she said.

“We lived through the forestry and all the time that forestry was thriving here we were asking for better management, for a more sustainable future, all of those things and it didn’t happen and it left us … I think we still suffer from the shutdown of that.”

“Now it’s the big oil boom.

“I know that Terrace is already feeling [the downturn] and that’s what we can’t afford to be in Hazelton.”

She said the village would support more sustainable resource development.

Public transport was another priority highlighted by the OCP.

The document said access in “the Hazeltons” was severely hampered by a lack of transportation, and that local government should continue to advocate for a better service.

Maitland said the village was already pushing for improvements.

“It is at the forefront of everybody’s minds and there are helpful things going but there is no real formal and government-related solution for it but we will just keep working for that,” she said.

“It’s probably one of the things we talk about every time we meet with ministers.”

Maitland said the construction of the new Upper Skeena Ice Arena and recreation centre was the community’s most important project.

“Our number one [priority] is to get this recreation centre built and to get it managed and designed in its delivery of services so it really is an active piece of the community and that we reach out to the people who have real problems being part of the community,” Maitland said.

“Not just with recreation, with health related programs.”

Other long-term projects listed in the OCP include the construction of an old-fashioned footbridge from ‘Ksan to a designated park at Mission Flats.

The bridge would serve the dual purpose of extending the village’s walking trails and allowing small service vehicles to cross to a sewage facility on the far side of the river.

Building a second road crossing of the Bulkley River, in addition to the Hagwilget bridge, is another OCP goal.

The village has already commissioned studies and identified a route.

Maitland said it would join the three Hazeltons together, making it easier to share emergency services and reducing travel time for school buses travelling west from other communities.

“I think it would increase tourism and increase business on this side of the river,” she said.

“I think it has to happen in the future … I think it would be a big plus for industry and development in the Hazeltons.”

The draft OCP will be posted on the village website at www.hazelton.ca.