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Dawson Creek council withdraws support for boundary extension

Two local developers say they're frustrated after Dawson Creek City Council withdrew support for an application to expand city boundaries to include two rural parcels of land.
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Dawson Creek council has withdrawn its support for an application to extend the city boundaries around two sections of land to the west and south of town.

Two local developers say they're frustrated after Dawson Creek City Council withdrew support for an application to expand city boundaries to include two rural parcels of land.

Council shot down an application from Wayne and Kerry Hansen to expand the city boundaries around two plots of land they own in a 4-3 vote Aug. 22.   

The Hansens have been trying to incorporate the land for a year and a half. They say additional industrial land is needed for Dawson Creek to grow and expand its tax base.

The developers needed approval to remove the farmland from the province's Agricultural Land Reserve, as well as from residents through a referendum-like alternative approval process. The city received just three responses.

The properties include a 64-hectare section north of Highway 97 toward Chetwynd and a 125-hectare section between 219 and 217 Roads south of the Dangerous Goods Route.

On Monday, however, council voted to delay inclusion of the land until the completion of the South Peace Comprehensive Development Plan, a land-use document currently in the works.

Kerry Hansen said she was disappointed to see the city withdraw its support more than a year into the process.

"We met all the criteria they set out for their approval, and then they changed their minds," she said.

The City of Dawson Creek is responsible for forwarding boundary extensions to the provincial cabinet, which makes the final decision.

Councillors Paul Gevatkoff, Terry McFadyen and Shaely Wilbur supported the application.

The debate centred on whether the city needs industrial land, and the public should pay to service the properties. Coun. Mark Rogers cited a report from city staff that the city could end up spending $69,000 over five years providing services to vacant parcels. “I think the odds of it being developed in the next five years would be zero,” he said. As for the need for industrial land, the Agricultural Land Commission earlier stated that Dawson Creek's industrial land needs could be met through infill of properties already in the city boundaries.

Wayne Hansen disagreed, saying the unavailability of land in the city is sending investors to Fort St. John and Grande Prairie.  

"There is no land in the City of Dawson Creek if someone comes to town and wants 40 acres," Wayne Hansen said. "Our town has to grow, and we're held back by the slow decisions."  

Gevatkoff said the city's decision to delay could leave the city unprepared if it goes through a "growth spurt" tied to oil and gas development.  

"I’d expect this might be five to ten years before we can actually say we’ve got land here for commercial or industrial purposes," he said. "If we don’t have a vision, we will stagnate forever."  

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