Deeper Roots Greater Heights (motto of the District of Maple Ridge)
Q. What does that mean to you and is it reflected in the important day-to-day decisions of District Hall?
Next week, my ad will read “Preserving what we have while building a better future” To me Deeper Roots means we respect and value our history, our environment, our natural and human resources to build a strong community that includes everyone. Greater Heights is possible when the foundation of the community is strong. Can we strengthen our neighbourhoods in order to strengthen our whole community? I think so.
Development has played a large part in the lives of Maple Ridge residents, and many of the problems experienced in our neighborhoods are a direct result of rapid development.
Quality of life.
Q. Does development improve the quality of life for the residents of Maple Ridge? If so how or why not?
Development has been detrimental to the quality of life that we enjoy in Maple Ridge. Traffic congestion, air quality, water resources and loss of farmland have all been impacted by development. As well, our schools are overcrowded, our infrastructure is strained and we have growing concerns about safety in our community. Having said that, I must admit that Maple Ridge will continue to develop so the issue in this election is how and where that development will take place.
3) Tax revenues are increasing each year with the addition of new housing but despite this our taxes are going up at a greater rate than inflation. The district financial statements and the districts 5 year plan do not breakout the additional costs of schools, fire, police protection, water and sewage, etc. nor do they show numbers for the infrastructure charges needed to support additional development.
Q. Does development make economic sense? Is it good fiscal policy to continue development without having a business plan with understandable cost attribution? Can you provide details that show that development is paying for itself and is not being subsidized by the taxpayer? Should the developer or the taxpayer pay for the cost of new development infrastructure?
A recent article (Vancouver Sun – September 19, 2011) by Tim Jackson and Peter Victor set forth the premise that prosperity without growth is possible. They then went on to describe how our ‘worship’ of growth has failed many people, failed the ecological systems, failed in providing either economic stability or security. Development, especially the kind of ‘hopscotch’ development we have seen in recent years, is very expensive both now and in the long term. It certainly does not make economic sense.
I believe that realistic cost attribution must be part of the business plan for any development. I have often wondered just how much it costs for servicing the ‘sprawl’ developments, especially in the long term, i.e. when the water quality fails or the septic systems are not functioning properly. I would want to know what the real costs are of a development before allowing it to take place.
I believe although I do not have hard numbers at hand, that all development is subsidized by the taxpayers in one way or another. The infrastructure costs should be primarily borne by the developer and built into the cost of the units. There might be times where costs would be shared if the municipality sees a benefit to itself in sharing costs. There may be an argument that some subsidization is needed at the front end and these funds will come back to the community in the long run but these numbers should be made pubic at the beginning.
4) Little thought seems to go into determining how new development will impact existing neighbourhoods. Example: The Alouette Valley has seen a huge increase in dump trucks on its’ streets seeking places to get rid of fill from development properties in Silver Ridge. Properties are being “fill farmed” on the North Alouette River, which increases the risk of flooding in this area.
Q. Is the development planning process being handled well? And is fill-farming an appropriate practice on farmland?
I have problems with the development planning process in that it too often seems to follow the wishes of the developers rather than the wishes of the community as expressed in the OCP and other documents.
I am absolutely opposed to fill farming on farmland. This is no less destructive than paving it over. Saving our farmland is an act of love for our children and grandchildren.
5) On the District of Maple Ridge website it is stated that the district supports and promotes Smart Growth, Sustainable Communities and Affordable Housing but at the same time council keeps approving conventional clear-cut one acre developments miles from any shopping or other amenities such as the one on Grant Hill (which is currently shut down due to sediment runoff).
Q. What does Smart Growth mean to you as a candidate for council and can you give us any examples of other towns/cities that to you are good examples of Smart Growth principles and why.?.
First of all, let me say that the ‘scar’ on Grant Hill was one of the big motivators for me to enter this campaign. Smart Growth to me means growth that respects the environment, the history and the people that will be affected by a development. Decisions need to be taken after serious consultation with all the players and then choices must be made giving due consideration to the impact on all of the above. Although Alouette Heights supportive housing, it hardly begins to address the issues of homelessness and affordable housing in our community. I would like to see a policy where every development either includes an affordable housing component or a levy to an affordable housing fund that could be used to develop affordable housing.
I do not have any examples of cities where Smart Growth principles have been used.
6) The creation of the Official Community Plan is a product of the astounding resource and wholehearted dedication and skill in our community base. Key recommendations from the OCP are:
– increasing the focus commercial/residential densification in the core
– significantly reducing residential sprawl
Q. Do you believe that the OCP has been truly integrated into the policies, budgets, business plans or development negotiations at the senior staff level?
I believe there are some signs of integration of the OCP as we see some construction in the downtown area that will lead to greater concentration of population but at the same time residential sprawl has not been seriously curbed and continues virtually unabated. The current policies as reflected in the changes in our community are not truly compatible with the recommendations of the OCP. The OCP is the result of hard work by many members of the community and the principles therein should guide all development decisions.
7) The OCP, ALR boundaries, Metro Vancouver Plan, and Maps of Environmentally Sensitive areas in Maple Ridge provide a framework for development which is meant to curtail urban sprawl, preserve our agricultural lands and our green spaces, and protect the environment.
Q. If you are elected to council will your development decisions be guided by compliance with the Maple Ridge OCP, ALR boundaries, the Metro Vancouver Plan, and Maps of Environmentally Sensitive Areas?
Simply put, Yes! For me, the primary guiding documents would be the OCP, the ALR boundaries and the maps of Environmentally Sensitive Areas.
8)The OCP is a “living document” and minor changes should from time to time take place. But the incumbent council has tried to make major changes to the OCP. Example: the Pelton farm exclusion application.
Q. Would you support such changes without a referendum? Do you support the exclusion of the Pelton farm from the ALR?
I would not support major changes without significant community input, which might mean a referendum. Minor changes can be made as a decision of council, perhaps with a public hearing so that citizens have an opportunity for input but major changes should definitely be taken to the citizens for their input.
I am personally opposed to the exclusion of the Pelton Farm from the ALR. That land is some of the best farmland in BC and with some remediation can be productive again.
9) The Agricultural Advisory Committee’s mandate includes the protection of agricultural land and resources.
Q. Would you support forwarding all applications for development that would impact agricultural land, farming and resources to the AAC so that the AAC can aid council in their decision-making process?
Yes. The AAC is there is advise council and the committee members are chosen for their interest and knowledge concerning agriculture in our community so it would seem natural to seek their advice in making such decisions.
10) In successful communities in the lower mainland the direction of development is determined by the people who live in those communities. North Vancouver and West Vancouver (both with limited land base) have successfully pursued goals in development with close consultation of their communities. This is made possible by strong and lines of genuine communication. Municipal staff policy in these communities ensures that public input is integrated, supported in setting and achieving goals for stronger more vibrant communities. Recently, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts has been praised for her style
of leadership and resulting successes for the Surrey community that presented many challenges. Her successes as a leader have been attributed to her;
- high regard for community input and
- will and determination to consistently and efficiently implement community input in real and meaningful ways.
Q. How successful has the District of Maple Ridge been in this regard? Senior Staff Level, Council /Mayor Level?
I believe the District of Maple Ridge has been relatively successful in consulting with the community on many issues. I have been to a number of public events and have found the senior staff to be generally knowledgeable and helpful concerning the issue at hand.
I believe there has been a problem in implementing community input in meaningful ways, particularly at the council/mayor level. An example might be the whole process around the development of the Albion Flats wherein a long process of consultation with the community resulted in a decision different than the community seemed to desire. Then this is forwarded to the ALC for a response that will take us back to a process of consultation, or so I believe.
Just on a side note, I have spent a lot of volunteer time in Surrey in recent years and have been impressed with Mayor Watts ability to build consensus and to include everyone in the community. There are those, however, who feel Mayor Watts and the current administration has allowed widespread development without proper consideration of environmental and human issues.
11) Other cities and districts regard the utilization and integration of community resources; that being time, energy and expertise, as being a modern, innovative and creative approach to solutions. Conversely, Maple Ridge communities have approached staff with concerns, possible solutions, and a willingness to communicate and collaborate. All too often they receive inadequate responses. Many times there seems to be a large gulf rift between senior staff and the community they serve.
Q. What do you feel is at the basis of this persistent problem? Is the rapid pace of development creating conflicting priories and placing too much strain on district staff? How high a priority is it to improve this situation and why? What solutions would you suggest to improve staff community relations?
I think there are many contributing factors to this problem. One is that public meetings are often seen as opportunities for confrontation rather than collaboration. A second is a lack of trust of others that often exists – between long time residents and newcomers/ between ‘pro-development’ and ‘tree-huggers’/between professional staff and those who in the community. Yes, the pace of development is placing strain on staff as it is placing strain on the existing community and its infrastructure. I think it is important to change this situation so that we can build a community for all. One way I would want to do this is to have council members visit meetings of community associations, action groups and other community groups on an annual basis to hear their concerns face-to-face.
Neighborhood specific topics:
Alouette Valley Association
Recreation Roadway Proposal – The Alouette Valley could become a great resource for Maple Ridge if it were turned into a designated recreational area similar to what has been accomplished in many other municipalities. The area could attract tourists, green business, create employment and increase tax revenues. If you are not already familiar with this initiative please visit. www.avalley.ca
Q, Would you support such an initiative?
Absolutely. Any such initiative to enhance our community and to build opportunities based on the rich resources that are already here should be supported and encouraged.
River Road Association
Older neighborhoods in Maple Ridge have seen exponential rises in traffic volume, especially if they are used as short cuts from East to West. The lifestyles of these neighborhoods have been badly impacted by speeding cars and discourteous drivers. Many neighborhoods have requested traffic calming measures but so far few measures have been implemented. Examples: River Road, Shady Lane 132 Ave. and 224 St., 128th Avenue.
Q. What would you do to help these neighborhoods?
I know there is resistance to the use of ‘sleeping policemen’ or lower speed bumps because of issues concerning first responders and liability. The issue of speeding and unsafe driving is too common in our community. You have provided a partial list of locations but there are many more. The response has been to install traffic circles but as one who lives beside a traffic circle, I can attest that it has made little difference and perhaps has increased the risk. We can put up signs but they will only work if people follow them.
Silver Valley Neighborhood Association
Much has been made about creating “complete communities”, yet many developments have gone in without the promised infrastructure. Silver Valley is a prime example. There is only one road in or out and none of the promised shops, schools, recreational facilities etc. have been built.
Q. Does it make sense to push development forward without the infrastructure in place to support it?
No, the plan should include the infrastructure needed to make a community that is more than residences. One way to do that is to do ‘blanket’ development where a community is planned (and such seemed to be the case with Silver Valley) with one developer taking the lead and providing a planned community that includes amenities. An example might be Westwood Plateau in Coquitlam.
Shady Lane Neighborhood Association
Cut Through Traffic in Residential Neighborhoods
Q. How will you, in the your role as Councilor/Mayor, prioritize and address the longstanding and acute problems of excessive volume and speed of traffic, and reckless driving, in residential neighborhoods which are the heart of this historic community
Above I talked of ‘low speed bumps’ on certain streets that are residential as seems to have been used with some success in other communities. Prioritizing is difficult because it is such a widespread concern. Expansion of Abernethy or other ‘collector’ roads might take some pressure off residential streets but that doesn’t always work.