Plan before profit

For Yukon communities, federal gas tax funds are there for the plucking. But there are strings attached.

For Yukon communities, federal gas tax funds are there for the plucking.

But there are strings attached.

For communities to get a cut of the money, which is supposed to be used for infrastructure projects, each has to draft a sustainability plan.

The territorial government has drafted basic requirements that each community must meet to access the federal monies.

And Teslin residents are on the move.

With a recent meeting held in the Teslin community centre, they put a plan in motion.

“The goal is to become more sustainable as a community. In other words, to be able to pay our own way, if you will, not to rely on as much government assistance,” said Wes Wirth, Teslin’s chief administrative officer.

“We’re looking at planning for the community on a long-range basis. Some of it might be five years, some of it might be 30 years.”

The plan is officially called an integrated community sustainability plan. It will be a joint project between the Village of Teslin council and the Teslin Tlingit Council.

“We’d like to have just one community plan,” said Wirth.

“A large part of (Teslin Tlingit Council) government and lands are within municipal boundaries.”

Teslin is the first of the Yukon’s communities to dedicate an entire meeting to developing a sustainability plan, according to David Black, policy and planning adviser for the Association of Yukon Communities.

The vision needs to come from within, said Black, who’s been hired to help each community develop its plan.

“It’s not just about a planner coming in and telling them what to do. It really is supposed to be driven by community members,” he said.

“It is up to each community to articulate their own principles.”

That’s what the 25 people gathered at the Teslin community centre did, said Wirth.

“We broke off into different groups and we talked about what we liked about Teslin, why we live here and what things we’d like to see change,” he said.

The plan will encompass the vision and goals of the residents of Teslin, he added.

“We have a number of things that each person would like to see happen in the community, hopefully that will come through as we develop the plan.”

While Wirth was satisfied with the turnout, the subject may be intimidating for some residents, he said.

“Probably people are a little afraid of the topic at this point,” he said.

“It’s a mouthful — integrated community sustainability plan. There’s all kinds of words there that need to be defined.”

Currently the two councils are banding together to form a working group to develop Teslin’s plan.

Creating the sustainability plan will also be part of revamping their community plans, which are five to six years old, according to Wirth.

While the date has not been set, the next meeting is expected to be held within the next few months.

One of the philosophical goals, for all of the communities, is to make sustainability a key part of smaller-scale planning, said Black in an interview Monday morning.

“It’s injecting the concept of sustainability into municipal and community planning,” he said.

The community plan will also attempt to bridge visions from different levels of government.

“A lot of times you get planning from all kinds of different government, whether it’s municipal, First Nations, territorial or federal departments,” added Black.

“There’s often no connection in the planning, nothing tying it all together.”