Comprehensive Community Planning Project for the District of Tumbler Ridge

You wouldn?t give birth to a baby without making a few plans prior to his or her arrival. In fact, you?d probably make a lot of to-do lists, add a room or change the colour scheme, as well as set aside some money each week for the big event. That?s what is happening here in Tumbler Ridge. The District of Tumbler Ridge have been working diligently with Urban Systems Ltd. to help ensure our community is well prepared for its expected growth over the next several years with the Comprehensive Community Planning Project (CCPP).

Whether you are a long-time resident or fairly new to the community, you can?t help but notice an increase in people and activities. The coal mining, oil and gas industries are drawing labourers and their families to town on an ever-increasing basis. While the increased industry is welcomed, its activity has created a variety of challenges for the District. Simply put, the town needs more housing and more space for business.

Since the District owns almost all of the available land within the town site, it may seem like a quick and easy solution to throw some undeveloped property on the market today for investors to build upon. If Tumbler Ridge was like other mining towns going through a boom time, this may well be the course of action taken. Fortunately, it is foresight and planning that sets our community far apart from places that are doomed to succumb to the inevitable bust that are a natural event in resource-based economies.

Many people don?t realize that Tumbler Ridge was physically and socially engineered through extensive planning before one brick was laid in the early 80?s. The development of the town was an experiment of sorts, to see if a community planned with permanency as its ultimate goal could weather the removal of the mines when they shut down. As we all can see this experiment worked, as many people decided to move here even when employment prospects were bleak. At the same time, planning also made the town very economical to service. This continues to allow taxes to be kept relatively low, while ensuring that infrastructure is properly maintained and that high levels of municipal service are delivered. People living in Tumbler Ridge have expressed their desire to see the town grow, but at the same time they have alsoC ommunity Planning made it clear that they don?t want this growth to destroy what kept or brought them here in the first place. This is where the Comprehensive Community Planning Project comes in.

There are several goals that the CCPP is setting out to achieve, including (but not limited to): a) Creating fair, consistent procedures for all land development; b) Instilling confidence in the investment community that TR still wishes to be more than a one-industry town; c) Maintaining our small town atmosphere while attracting big town businesses; d) Ensuring that we will always be relatively inexpensive to operate/service so that taxes can stay low, and; e) Making sure that the town looks and feels like the best place in the world to live now, as well as twenty years from now.

Due to the project?s importance, the District wants to ensure that people are kept fully informed as it unfolds. On May 29 an informational newsletter was distributed to every home in Tumbler Ridge, outlining the CCPP and its intent. So far there hasn?t been a huge response to the material, but getting people excited about planning is not an easy task, as Ray Proulx can tell you. ?People usually don?t speak up about planning-related issues until there are potholes in the roads, empty run-down neighbourhoods, derelict buildings or vacant lots in the downtown core. Saying that, we?re going to keep the project?s profile front and centre, making sure that we get the message out without bogging people down with too much technical info.?

So what does all this planning entail? To start with, they are currently preparing a Strategic Planning Framework (SPF), which will provide Town Hall staff, residents and investors with detailed information on how both planning and development decisions are made by the District. This document is expected to be available by the end of June.

At the same time the SPF is being completed, it is being used to facilitate the drafting of a Development Procedures Bylaw manual. It is the hope that this manual will enable developers to navigate through the complex process of submitting a development proposal by succinctly summarizing all of the duties and fees involved. This is also expected to be complete by the end of June.

Over the summer, existing infrastructure throughout the municipality will be assessed and inventoried. Ensuring that the roads, water, sewage and other systems are in excellent working order will enable the District to prioritize expenditures in order to meet the future needs of the community.

In addition, the District is currently revising its land use bylaw for the creation of a new zoning bylaw, which will guide land use throughout the entire municipality. To do this, however, further resident/property owner input is required. Please watch for details advising how you can express your concerns or share ideas.

The CCPP is a long-term project and will require many long hours of hard work to ensure Tumbler Ridge continues to draw developers, insure that the resources to meet their needs are in place, and still maintain the attributes that make Tumbler Ridge such an attractive place to live.

Further information can be obtained by visiting: www.tumblerridge.ca/mh/planning.htm or contacting Ray Proulx, Economic Development Officer at 242-4242 or edo@dtr.ca.

It is ambitious due to the fact that it is completing in 9 months what normally takes place on a gradual basis over decades of existence.