A group of Harrison Mills activists known as the THER Group are voicing their concerns to the Fraser Valley Regional District as the FVRD moves to respond to the growing pressures of development in the Agassiz-Harrison area.
According to FVRD spokesperson Angelique Crowther, a now-closed online survey launched earlier this autumn is part of the process to create the Harrison Mills Neighbourhood Plan, a grassroots-government collaboration designed to respond to growing development pressures in Harrison Mills.
“The Neighbourhood Plan will also focus on environmentally sensitive areas, parks and recreation assessment, geohazard analysis, crown land assessment, cultural and archaeological assessment, and local servicing needs,” Crowther wrote in a statement to The Observer. “The community feedback, First Nations feedback, and technical analyses together will pave the way for orderly and sustainable community planning.”
Redevelopment interests in the area includes residential, commercial and recreational developments, which includes the golf course redevelopment at Sandpiper Resort. Sandpiper submitted a preliminary conceptual plan to the FVRD last year. The redevelopment proposals would require, among other things, amendments to the Official Community Plan and the electoral area.
THER represents 90 members living at properties in the affected neighbourhoods along Morris Valley Road – Tapadera, Harrison Lane, Eagle Point and River Reach. In addition to numerous concerns about redevelopment and its effect on the community’s atmosphere and infrastructure, the THER Group had worries that the survey results could be contaminated by outside respondents using false Harrison Mills addresses.
THER spokesperson Rebecca Stirling, an Eagle Point resident, said her neighbours had numerous other concerns, including preserving the rural feel of Harrison Mills and the development’s effect on ground water and geothermal power. The primary concern surrounds the area’s environment; nearby Elbow Creek is home to five species of salmon, Stirling said, and it is considered a sensitive, important part of the ecosystem, and redevelopment could mean the creek would have to be disrupted and rerouted.
“What we really want is the protection of Elbow Creek, and the only way that’s going to happen is if everything stays the way it is; that’s our primary goal,” Stirling said. “It’s important for the eagles and fish, and to even think of (redevelopment) is outrageous.”
Crowther said the Neighbourhood Plan creation is still in its early stages. The online survey garnered 120 responses.
“The primary purpose of the survey is to understand some key themes of the Harrison Mills area,” Crowther wrote. “Survey results will be analyzed based on demographic data and the location of the survey respondents.”
The FVRD is planning multiple public engagement sessions over the course of the next year that will highlight the key themes the public is concerned about.
“There is no single public engagement avenue that is more important or decisive than the others; rather it is a series of public engagement events that will shape the vision of the Harrison Mills Neighbourhood Plan,” Crowther wrote.
For the FVRD, the next steps are mailing out information about the electoral area boundary plans, sending a project initiation letter to the THER neighbourhoods, continue communication with the Sts’ailes and Sq’ewlets First Nations and prepare for the public information meeting in December. Affected residents should receive information about the upcoming public information meeting in the mail.
In the mean time, members of the THER Group are busying themselves collecting more resident feedback and data.
“If it came down to it, we’re prepared to protest and get the Ministry of Municipal Affairs involved,” Stirling said.”What we’re trying to do is wake people up. Our world can’t be passive about this anymore.”
For more information on the Harrison Mills Neigbourhood Plan, visit haveyoursay.fvrd.ca/harrison-mills. Monthly board updates and more FVRD-related information is available at fvrd.ca.