“We’ve gone from a community where we were almost giving property away to where we’re now needing to accommodate people. You can’t do that without proper planning.”
– GARRY ZAMZOW, SNOW LAKE MAYOR
Snow Lake Mayor Garry Zamzow jokes how he likes hearing his cellphone ring these days.
Until last month, Snow Lake had no cell service.
The northern mining town now has something else to celebrate. It is the 2010 winner of an award presented annually to a Manitoba municipality demonstrating best practices in planning and development.
Snow Lake earned the award for a development plan which impressed judges for its capacity to help the town withstand future dips and swings in their fortunes.
“Many communities have development plans,” said Association of Manitoba Municipalities president Doug Dobrowolski.
“What made Snow Lake’s plan stand out is the fact that, as a one-industry town, its plan had to accommodate both boom-and-bust periods.”
Snow Lake, which grew out of the mining industry in the 1940s, has not foreseen a particularly bright future, Zamzow said. Just over a year ago, mine closures due to low base metal prices prompted HudBay Minerals Inc. to shut down its mine in Snow Lake, resulting in hundreds of lost jobs and plummeting property values as people left town. But the small town of around 800 saw its fortunes reverse last fall – with a modern-day gold rush.
HudBay is now constructing what’s expected to eventually be the biggest gold and zinc mine in the country. As many as 500 new jobs are now on the horizon, Zamzow said.
“We’ve gone from a community where we were almost giving property away to where we’re now needing to accommodate people,” said Zamzow. “You can’t do that without proper planning.”
Local residents played an integral role in creating their development plan by involvement in community forums, he said.
A key part of it is the pursuance of new housing, but with the priority put on infill sites and use of existing developed land before developing new residential, commercial or industrial lots, the mayor said.
It’s in keeping with new provincial land use policies urging municipalities to first direct new development to settlement areas before expanding to new. Snow Lake is constructing 55-plus condominium housing to provide desirable housing for an estimated 35 per cent senior population. The goal is to see residents moving into these units and freeing up more housing for new Snow Lakers.
But their community isn’t just readying for good times ahead, their mayor says. The development plan aims to ensure their community’s long-term sustainability, by making it a great place to live, regardless of future booms or busts.
“We’re a very small community, and we have experienced the highs and lows of a single-industry town,” Zamzow said.
Other initiatives include promoting tourism and cottage development, building in “age friendliness” to infrastructure and maintaining green spaces.
Snow Lake also banned plastic bags on January 1, 2010.
Local promotions note the community is spectacularly picturesque with multiple lakes and forested areas, and has a large array of community services including a nursing centre with two doctors and a day care.
This is the sixth year the AMM has awarded a Municipal Excellence Award to a municipality whose practices demonstrate creativity, cost effectiveness, and sustainability and are exemplary for others.