What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Houston community? What opportunities are there to make improvements? What is your dream for this community?
Those are some questions explored by the District of Houston as they develop their Transportation and Land Use Plans.
The Land Use Plan for Houston could be 100 years out – it’s the big dream the District will move towards and implement piece by piece, explained Fraser Blyth, principal consultant with Selkirk Planning & Design.
Over 30 Houston people attended the open house to discuss the plan last Wednesday.
Jan Voss, President of Creative Transportation Solutions, is working on the Transportation plan.
He said there were three things he really liked about Houston.
The first is the downtown core and it’s “great network,” which allows traffic to spread out so there’s more parking and less busyness on the streets, he said.
The second is the working train station.
“Most communities in B.C. don’t have an active Via train station… it’s something that right now is not well used, but it’s a huge asset for you to grow on in the future,” Voss said.
The third thing is the “extensive trail network” with footpaths across Buck Creek, by the dyke and through Steelhead Park, which “for a community your size is very impressive.”
But Voss said there are two things that need improvement.
One is the “hourglass shape,” with only one bridge across Buck Creek.
“From an emergency vantage point, that’s something you definitely want to change in the long term,” he said, adding that another bridge would give people the ability to move around if the highway gets closed for an emergency.
“If you talk to the Province, they’re huge supporters of communities that develop municipal transportation networks that are parallel to their highways,” he said. “There are often funding opportunities.”
His second concern was the access to the Industrial Park, especially the Nadina intersection and the safety of the rail crossing there.
Place Making specialist Sonny Tomic said the one thing he noticed is kids biking around downtown.
“That tells me this is a safe place,” he said. “That’s your asset, friendliness… and a safe environment.”
Consultant Blyth said he appreciates the river around Houston.
“You’ve got a great river valley,” he said.
Second, is Jamie Baxter Park.
“I think you’re really lucky to have a park like that, with the band shell, skate park, and the link to the river.”
Third is the community amenities, such as the pool, ice rink, curling rink, connection with Health Centre and Library, Steelhead Park.
“You’re very lucky,” he said.
“You have all the pieces you need for a great community here, they just need to be linked up, and that’s essentially what this Land Use Plan is going to do.”
The Land Use Plan has a $49.500 budget, with $12,500 funded by the Real Estate Foundation and $37,000 from Canada Gas Tax Funds, said Director of Finance William Wallace.
The plan is contracted to Selkirk Planning & Design for $25,000, and includes smaller projects with brown fields, streetscapes, parks and trails.
The final phase of the work will include decisions for downtown and industrial redevelopment and will be completed by fall 2014.
The Transportation Master Plan has a $67,000 budget, fully funded by Canada Gas Tax Funds, Wallace said.
The District contracted Creative Transportation Solutions for $38,700. The work will finish in 2014 and include decisions for the Highway 16 upgrade project with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Mayor Bill Holmberg says the consultants will give the District ideas for the plan, but ultimately council will make the decisions.
The public can share their ideas and dreams for Houston with John Guenther at the District office or fill out a transportation survey there.
A second open house will be September 10, seeking public feedback on the plan, which set to be finalized in October.