Booming Fort St. John comes with billion dollar price tag

Photo by City of Fort St. John

Fort St. John could see as many as 84,000 residents by 2065, and will require nearly $1 billion in new infrastructure by then to service that growth.

Those are some key findings Urban Systems will deliver to city council at a committee of the whole meeting this afternoon from its 50 Year Growth Study final report.

The report forecasts a number population growth scenarios and infrastructure needs up to 2065, and will serve as a key document for Fort St. John as it juggles its spending priorities.

That study predicts a number of population scenarios, from a slow population growth to 46,000 residents by 2065 if the city grows at rates between one and 2.2 per cent a year.

If the city grows any faster, sustaining average annual growth in the 2.2 to 3 per cent range, it could see as many as 84,000 new residents by 2065.

The report settles on more modest growth in the range of 2 to 3 per cent over the next several decades, with population more likely to settle around 62,000 people.

Fort St. John saw the second highest growth in British Columbia in 2014 at 4.7 per cent. The city is anticipating rapid and exponential growth with construction of the $8.8-billion Site C dam, along with billions of dollars more in proposed coastal LNG plants that will feed off gas from the region.

Servicing that growth won’t come cheap. The cost of new water supplies, sewers, roads, parks, fire halls, and police stations is estimated by Urban Systems at $846 million.

Transportation needs the greatest

Not surprisingly, the estimated cost of new transportation infrastructure takes up a sizeable chunk of that total at $247.1 million, or 30 per cent.

The report identifies a number of priorities, from bypass road upgrades and several four-laning road projects in the neighbourhood of $115 million. The city will need to spend roughly $132 million for new major roads and intersections. Some of those costs wouldn’t be born entirely by the city, the report notes, with developers and other sources of funding playing a part.

The city will need anywhere from 700 to 2,600 hectares of new land to accommodate its growth, according to the report, more than 50 per cent of which would be allocated for residential and road use.

New civic buildings would cost at least $140M

When it comes to municipal facilities, Fort St. John will need to build itself a new city hall, two new fire stations, a new RCMP building, along with a host of other city facilities.

The report pegs a two-phase city hall construction at $33 million to eventually complement an increased staff of nearly 140 people. The first phase of a new city hall would be required by 2025, with the second phase needed by 2040.

Two new fire halls would need to be built to a tune of $24 million a piece, with the first needed by 2025, and the second needed by 2035. Report estimates staff increases of 48 firefighters.

Meanwhile, a new RCMP detachment is estimated at $34 million. Fort St. John RCMP will need 98 new city officers by 2065, with another 25 needed for regional policing.

The city will also need a new public works building by 2040 to the tune of $17.5 million, but will need to make about $2.6 million in upgrades to its existing building to handle new growth by 2017, the report states.

The city would also need a new bylaw services building, estimated at $4 million, with eight new officers brought on board. The report also budgeted $2.3 million for a new visitor centre.

New parks, trails, sports fields galore

The report projects a need for 160 hectares of new parkland, with the creation of 22 new parks across the city — including 17 new neighbourhood pars, four community parks, and only a single, new “destination” park. The report notes Fort St. John is currently limited in supply of neighbourhood parks.

About 50 kilometres of new trails would need to be built to link new developments and loop off the city’s existing trail system.

The report also projects a need for 27 new sports fields, half a dozen new indoor ice sheets along with two outdoor hockey rinks, a second curling facility, and another indoor soccer pitch.

The city will likely need to begin planning for a second pool at some point, the report notes. It would also benefit from a community centre that could accommodate a gymnasium and multi-purpose rooms for a variety of sports and events.

The report pegs new parkland costs at $32 million, with new indoor and outdoor rec facilities estimated around $120 million.

The report also projected the city will need to spend another $120 million on sanitary and storm sewers.

Fort St. John will also need to develop a new water supply, and it has apparently reached a tentative agreement with BC Hydro to withdraw water from the reservoir created by Site C for future city needs.

More on that story, and how much the city will need to spend to ease its water shortfall, can be read here.

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