Kiersten Duncan

Vision:
1) 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?

My interpretation is if we have a firm foundation on which to build our community and pride in ourselves then we, Maple Ridge, can accomplish great things. As it stands I don’t feel that residents are as proud as they should be of our beautiful community. We have some of the best scenery, festivals, and some of the most friendly, caring people imaginable. Yet we only look at the problems Maple Ridge is facing and forget that we should be proud of where we live.

I do not feel this motto is reflected because poor choices have been made by council especially regarding development. A prime example of this is the ever increasing sprawl that is negatively affecting us now and will for future generations. We need to dig deep down to our roots and remember that the people are the heart of our community and its foundation. I believe that through proper consultation with the public about issues and more transparency we can fulfill our motto.

Residential Development:
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.

2) Quality of life.
Q. Does development improve the quality of life for the residents of Maple Ridge? If so how or why not?

I feel development has the potential to be good or bad depending on how well it’s planned. The majority of our residential development is sheer sprawl which is negatively impacting our community as we have seen in areas such as Albion where new families can’t even get their kids into the two closest schools because both are grossly overcrowded. I believe we need to slow down this type of development, allowing for our infrastructure to catch up and for necessary amenities to be looked after. Improvements to pedestrian and cyclist safety are a must. Additions or improvements to our current bike lanes will make it safer for cyclists to reach their destinations. I would also like to see road improvements such as sidewalks and streetlights (eg. 24th heading north after Kanaka Bridge) to make it safer for pedestrians as well. Development should follow the 45 principles of our Official Community Plan and respect our agricultural land, green spaces, and rural character as this is at the heart of Maple Ridge. I would like to see continuing development in down town Maple Ridge as I feel drawing shoppers to the heart of our city will help small businesses grown and support good local jobs. Supporting shopping developments that have goods and services you can walk to and are easily accessible to cyclists will decrease our carbon foot print and cut down on traffic while promoting a more active lifestyle. This to me is sustainable development that fits our unique Maple Ridge style of shopping with mom and pop shops before big box stores.

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?

Since moving to Maple Ridge 11 years ago my family’s property taxes have more than doubled despite not having such services as city water, sewage, sidewalks, streetlights, recycling, garbage pickup, or even a line in the middle of my road. I feel that much of our rising taxes are due to residential sprawl and that citizens are picking up after the developers. We need to find out the true price developers are costing taxpayers. I think it unfair for citizens to have to bear the costs while the developers profits.

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 definitely feel the development planning process is not being handled well. There is plenty of need for improvement such as better consultation with residents affected by new development proposals. A recent example of this is the residents below the Grant Hill Estates whose wells are now threatened.
As for fill-farming I feel this is very bad practice that destroys productive farmland. It is a loop hole that is being abused by some farmers to make a profit.

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.?.

Smart growth to me is sustainable development that fits in with our community’s vision for growth. In Maple Ridge this means respecting our rural character and abiding by important documents outlining how we should develop such as our OCP and Agricultural Plan. I like the retail development around Eagle Ridge hospital as it has residential in the high-rises above with small business underneath. These shops are all easily accessible to pedestrians and cyclists and are very close together for easy access.

OCP
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?

Absolutely not. I feel our OCP has been stomped on and entirely ignored in many developments and proposals. We saw this with the exclusion of upper Jackson’s Farm to allow residential development in an environmentally sensitive area and where schools are bursting at the seams. This contravened Principle 23 of our OCP and many more as it clearly did not fit within “community values the protection of environmentally sensitive areas including, water (for its intrinsic value, habitat and aquifer recharge), areas of natural beauty, forests, etc.” The Albion Flats Plan has also completely disregarded our OCP as well as the Pelton exclusion application and many more. I for one stand by the 45 principles of our OCP and if elected would do my best to uphold them.

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?

Yes, I can assure you I will! I have spoken out against sprawl and development in environmentally sensitive areas in the past and will continue to do so. These documents are here for a reason and we need to respect them.

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?

No I do not support such large scale changes without a referendum. Again, the OCP is there for a reason and while small changes will be made over time to adapt with our growing community these should only be made after careful consideration and consultation with the public.

I do not support the removal of the Pelton farm from the ALR. After hearing from a neighboring property owner that they have great soil for growing, I do not believe that the land on the other side of the fence can be unfarmable.

Municipal District

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. I feel this will ensure accountability from our council as well as a more transparency in the decision making process. This will also aid in protecting good agricultural land.

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 do not feel that city hall has taken the appropriate measures to include residents in the decision making process and that their concerns often fall on deaf ears. When someone comes forward from the community with good concrete information it should be taken seriously rather than brushed off. Council should recognize that they are not above the citizens and are there to represent them.

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 community 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?

After attending the all candidates meetings the questions from the floor made it obvious that many residents are frustrated with communication issues at city hall. Lack of transparency appears to be one of the biggest complaints. Improving communication between council, staff, and the public needs to be a top priority if we are to move forward. My hope is that the next council will lead by example by listening and being open.

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?

Yes I do. This initiative will make it far safer for cyclists, pedestrians, equestrians, and all forms of non-motor vehicle transportation to use this road. I drove down 232nd to get to work at WildPlay during the summer so I understand firsthand the safety concerns. I know that people speed down that road and that pedestrians are not always easy to see in some places. Over the last few years Maple Ridge has seen some horrific, tragic accidents with horses and yet many people are still ignorant about how to drive when around horses. Such a trail would tie in beautifully and expand existing tourism opportunities in the area. This will also get more people active and cut down on traffic by getting cars off the road.

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 would like Council to come to each community individually to ask residents exactly where they would like to see traffic calming measure and what parts of the road they find most dangerous. This problem will only get worse if council doesn’t deal with it. I find that talking to the residents in the area in person is the best way to learn about the problem and work out solutions.

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 it does not. I feel that we need to grow at a slower pace to ensure new developments do not arrive before proper planning has been done. We need to make sure that all regions of Maple Ridge have proper infrastructure to support developments in their area. Our current way of developing is not in the people’s interest but the developer and this needs to change.

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

As I said in the River Road question I would like to see a public meeting where council goes to communities such as Shady Lane and River Road to address their issues in person. Excessive speeding is a growing problem in many residential neighbourhoods and there are a few things we can do. While installing speed bumps may help I believe there needs to be a greater focus on educating the public about the dangers of using residential streets as highways.

One creative alternative to speed bumps are signs such as the “Slow down, my daddy works here” signs as seen in constructions zones. Although this would have to be tweaked to apply to specific neighbourhoods I feel this is something we should look into.

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