A vacant lot close to the leisure center on the corner of Butler and Fifteenth, owned by the provincial government and considered a brownfield site, has been identified as a preferred location for a new community hall. (Houston Today photo)

Community hall land features on council wish list

Council has long list of topics for provincial cabinet ministers

The property on which the District of Houston wants to build a community hall is first on a long list of topics the council wants to discuss with provincial cabinet ministers this fall.

The property on the corner of Butler and Fifteenth is owned by the provincial government and was once an industrial storage site, a use that has resulted in its classification as a brownfield site.

That’s a designation requiring an environmental assessment and potentially remediation before getting a green light for a development.

Council agreed to the list of topics leading up to the annual convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities which takes place each September.

One of the features of that convention is the ability of municipalities to meet with cabinet ministers to lobby for specific items.

Whether the convention will take place in person or virtually isn’t yet known but typically a local government can spend 15 to 30 minutes in discussion with a cabinet minister and senior provincial officials.

Here are some of the key topics occupying council:

– Council has responded to the decision years ago by Coast Mountain College to stop offering courses here by lobbying for their return.

– The District of Houston-owned Dungate Community Forest wants to expand its annual allowable cut and proposes to do so within the Morice Mountain Recreation Area in such a fashion that would increase that area’s outdoor recreation potential. An additional benefit would see more profits going to the District for various uses. For the past two years community forest directors have expressed a preference for the money to be used to help build a new community hall.

– Council has been advocating for more long term care services. The Houston Health Centre does have long term care beds but there’s a growing demand. Assisted living services are available at Cottonwood Manor but that level of care is not 24 hours a day. Northern Health is planning an expansion of long term care beds in Smithers and council wants to have a voice in how that project proceeds.

– North Nadina Crossing/Tweedie intersection. Council wants a restoration of two-way traffic over the North Nadina CN Rail crossing. It is now one way and that’s to the industrial area with outgoing traffic having to use the Tweedie Ave. intersection, something that causes a bottleneck. As for Tweedie itself and its Hwy16 intersection, council has long been lobbying the provincial transportation ministry for improvements to upgrade the exit from the eastbound lanes onto Tweedie to include a dedicated off-ramp, without restricting eastbound traffic continuing on Highway 16, and installing a meridian between the eastbound lane and the southbound exit on Highway 16 West.

– Provincial social services agencies don’t have offices in Houston, meaning people have to drive to Smithers. Council has also said there’s a failure of those Smithers-based services to travel to Houston.

– The provincial government is financing a number of housing projects in the northwest for Indigenous people, for seniors and for people on low or fixed income. The Dze L’Kant Friendship Centre based in Smithers has a proposal for a housing project in Houston to be built on land that would be provided by the District of Houston.

– Along with other local governments in northwestern B.C., the District of Houston is a member of the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance, a group that wants the province to share the tax revenue it gets from resource industries. The provincial government has yet to fully respond to the idea of tax sharing.