Housing, infrastructure top priorities in Smithers strategic plan

Issues for 2019-2022 include livability, environmental responsibility and Wet’suwet’en relations

From achieving competitive airfare to lobbying the Province to have Smithers reclassified as a resort municipality, the Town of Smithers has some big plans for 2019-2022.

Just before their August 27 meeting, Smithers council presented their 2019-2022 strategic plan for the Town.

Divided into six separate areas — the Town’s economy, community livability, environmental responsibility, relationship with the Wet’suwet’en, asset management and organizational effectiveness — the presentation focuses on a number of long-term goals the Town has planned over the next three years.

Discussing economic strategies for the Town, Coun. Lorne Benson noted upgrading the airport water well system, which is currently highly mineralized with a relatively low flow rate.

“We want to explore the options for improving on that particularly with the objective in mind of expanding the services at the airport.”

Benson also said the Town wants to improve housing affordability and an increase in the diversity of housing options in the community, noting that the Town’s current Official Community Plan (OCP) is around a decade old.

“It was adopted 10 years or so ago [and] there is certainly a combination in there for being able to facilitate some creativity in terms of housing.”

However he added that the Town is also looking at revisiting the OCP to try and stimulate diverse housing options in the community.

“In the meantime if you look at our Town website … our planning and development staff are very helpful in terms of exploring options that may be available to those wanting to develop properties.”

Benson said that some other economic goals the Town has are to create a housing taskforce, encourage more dense developments — such as skinny homes and carriage houses — and to lobby the province to include Smithers as a resort municipality.

On community livability, Coun. Casda Thomas did not mince words with regard to the Town’s goals.

“Our goal is to continue to make Smithers a place where people want to live and visit.”

Some other goals that Thomas touched on were population — noting that Smithers has remained stable in past years — and to develop a plan for Central Park.

Developing a Recreation and Parks Master Plan and supporting the proposed Cycle 16 bike trail between Smithers and Telkwa were two other priorities discussed by Thomas.

On environmental responsibility, Coun. Gladys Atrill said some goals the Town is working toward are phasing in electric vehicles for the Town fleet and implementing various energy-efficient heat reclamation upgrades between the Civic Centre and BV Pool.

“The goal here is to protect our natural environment and resources by reducing our waste, pollution and footprint.”

In terms of the Town’s relationship with the Wet’suwet’en, Atrill said that two of the main goals the Town has are to create a permanent commemmoration of Indiantown as well as forums for Council to better understand reconciliation.

This is all being done, Atrill noted, in line with the goal of renewing, maintaining and respecting protocol agreements between the municipality and the Wet’suwet’en.

“[The Town wants] to work with the Wet’suwet’en people to strengthen the relationship and collaborate on opportunities.”

In terms of asset management, Coun. Frank Wray said one of the major priorities of the Town is to incorporate asset management recommendations for upgrades to water, sewer, storm and roads into their five-year capital budget.

The Town also wishes to identify buildings that might be good subjects for the municipality to sell off.

“Presently we have a bit of an idea going forward, but we actually will be doing a full asset management plan,” said Wray.

The Town is also hoping to develop a communications strategy for asset literacy — something people can use to know what they are paying for with their tax dollars and what the Town is doing with that money.

Wray said they also hope to complete the South Trunk Storm Sewer project, stalled some years ago due to a lack of funds.

“That was probably almost 10 years ago we had funding to do that and the funding ran out about … two thirds of the way through the project so we’re hoping to get that completed.”

The Town is also hoping to complete a river bank erosion study, noting previous damage that had occured to Rosenthal Road.

“That’s partially due to the encroachment of the river, so we definitely need a plan in place to make sure parts of our Town aren’t lost to erosion,” said Wray.

In terms of their last priority — organizational effectiveness — Coun. John Buikema said the Town hopes to increase overall community engagement between the Town and its residents.

Some ways in which the Town is hoping to do this is rebuilding their website — which Buikema noted could use an update — and adopting social media and communications policies.

Council also hopes to complete a community engagement strategy.

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