Merritt adds 134 hectares to boundary
About 30 people gathered in Merritt council chambers last Tuesday to discuss plans to designate to the municipality 134 hectares near Midday Valley Road.
After about a 45-minute public hearing, council signed off on the land transfer previously granted by Thompson Nicola Regional District, which, until Tuesday’s approval, had jurisdiction over the land.
City staff said the transfer is needed to accommodate a growing community, which is expected to be largely driven by an increasing number of senior citizens.
“The population is aging at a greater rate than the provincial average, up three per cent in the last census,” Development Services Officer Sean O’Flaherty said. “There is a focus [in the zoning of the lands] on walking paths, park benches, health services, et cetera.”
Each developer would need to earn council approval for their project before construction begins. Wildfire and geotechnical assessments are required on each lot.
The geotechnical component aims to address concerns about underground earth materials. This was a major concern among the public, particularly the availability of water.
According to Ginny Prowal, chairperson of the Water Resource Advisory Committee to the city, enough water might not be available to serve such a vast number of homes and businesses.
“I don’t think this has been fully addressed,” she said. “We need to approach that with caution, or at least with a sustainable approach to water conservation.”
O’Flaherty said water can be stored in reservoirs, but further studies are needed to determine capacity.
Prowal also said she is concerned about an asphalt plant rumoured to be in the area, though no one could confirm its existence. An operating asphalt plant would emit stinky toxins, but the city only confirmed the application of an asphalt factory and aggregate storage.
As the second and final member of the public to speak at the hearing, Linda Baird said she is concerned because city documents don’t include a map from the Ministry of Mines.
“If we don’t have the documents to show it, how do we know how safe that is?” she asked. “There was coal mining out there and I’m concerned about gases coming up from the ground. I can see the wisps of steam rising throughout the winter, and I wonder how much more there will be if the ground is disturbed.”
Staff said that will be determined with the geotechnical assessments.
The city overview outlines BC Stats information that indicates Merritt’s population could reach nearly 15,000 by 2030, demanding an estimated 881 new housing units. However, a lower projection of nearly 9,000 people in that same time period would demand about 661 new housing units.
The area is designed for residential properties, commercial buildings, industrial and future development.