Traditionally, the town of Quispamsis has been a community of single-family dwellings with very few apartments or townhouses.
But that's starting to change, says Mayor Libby O'Hara.
"We are an aging demographic and as a result of that, many people want to downsize and they want to remain in this beautiful community of Quispamsis," she said. "So we need to answer those needs."
That's why the town hired a consulting group to do a housing-needs assessment, gather community input, and help update the municipal plan and zoning bylaws to make it easier to bring high-density housing to Quispamsis.
Jennifer Brown of Dillon Consulting said the process will begin as an academic study looking at housing data, development trends, income and employment data, and information from surrounding communities.
But a big part of the process, said Brown, will be community engagement, with three open houses already planned for Feb. 12, 14 and 17.
Consultants want public input
"We can only know the issues from a purely technical standpoint," she said.
"We need the community to tell us what their pain points are in their day-to-day life. They are the experts in their community. So we need to write these plans and strategies using their expertise."
O'Hara said Quispamsis is growing and is poised to continue that growth for another 25 years. And as a fast growing New Brunswick community, she said the town has to ensure it is inviting and ready to meet the needs of residents.
When it comes to community engagement, O'Hara said she hopes members of the public will come and share their housing needs and their vision for the community.
Mayor Libby O'Hara sees a future with high-density housing in the Hampton Road area. (Submitted by Town of Quispamsis)
O'Hara said she isn't concerned about the possibility of NIMBYism, or not-in-my-backyard, like some other New Brunswick communities have faced with new development prospects.
"Number 1, we need housing, just full stop, we need housing," she said. "Number 2, … we have a strategic plan that we need to adhere to and if that means that we need to do higher-density buildings, then that's what we have to follow.
"I'll often say to people … this is what we do when we are growing. And what served us 30 years ago, when their families may have been younger, doesn't serve us today."
Brown and O'Hara both said some residents have expressed a need for a downtown space of sorts, or a community-gathering area.
O'Hara said Hampton Road, the main corridor of the community, is home to the municipal offices, an arts and culture park, a splash pad and a skateboard park. But she said more can be done for the area.
She said she sees a future with high-density housing, and she wants to make it accessible for walkers, cyclists and drivers, as well as getting town water to the area to make it more attractive for developers.
"We need that signature identity that this is our main area, this is the heart of our town," said O'Hara.
"I think we need to have that heart and soul of the community so that when we have our Christmas tree lighting, which is down off of the Hampton Road, … it's a welcoming place, and I think that's going to make a big difference in this community."