Thank you for this opportunity to answer your questions. I really appreciate that all your neighbourhoods worked together to send us only one set of questions.
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?
Honour our past and strive to be the best in the future. We have let several opportunities to preserve our heritage pass us by. It has not been part of conncil’s policy to preserve houses that have been listed on our heritage inventory. We had a heritage house on the site of the Tim Hortons on 230th. Tim Hortons insisted that they could not develop without their signature corporate look so council said go ahead tear it down. Later when I was in Halifax I noted there were numerous Tim Hortons all in preserved heritage buildings. Even in Brockville Ont. pop. 20,000 where my mother lived, the McDonalds on King Street in the middle of downtown was housed in a heritage building. We have just lost Albion Hall. We must do a better job of growing smarter in the future. We need to build a compact downtown and while this council has done some work to build up the downtown, we need to do a lot more. Council continues to support sprawl and to try to remove ALR land for 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?
It does depend on what development you are referring to. It is impossible to provide all the quality of life services to rapid residential development. Sprawl or low density development does not pay for all the services it requires while dense residential and industrial contribute to the tax base and thus the services we need. Neighbourhood commercial provides services to the neighbourhood but it uses as much service as it pays tax for. Industrial development provides employment close to home lessening green house gas emissions and lessening our dependence on commuting. Some services such as school development are controlled by the provincial government and typically are only built once the student population is there. However in our situation we could be encouraging densification around our empty schools where the infrastructure already exists. If we were truly committed to providing the best development possible we would focus on the densification option which uses our existing infrastructure and contributes to the tax base. It would help build our quality of life services such as recreation and parks with out having to increase taxes..
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?
The developer needs to pay for the cost of development infrastructure. We definitely should not be fronting the money for this development. But once the infrastructure is built it is turned over to the municipality to maintain and replace. Low density residential development costs more to service than it pays in taxes. Building sprawl builds miles and miles of roads, water, sewer and storm sewer infrastructure that in the long term is costly. Sprawl is also challenging to service from both a fire and police perspective. These are our most expensive services and are born by the tax payer. School expansion is under the jurisdiction of the provincial government and their policies and criteria. Again we could be densifying around empty existing schools.
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?
If you are a developer you are constantly saying that the development planning process takes too long and costs too much. If you live close by to the development you are likely not happy with it either. It is always worth reviewing our processes to see if it can be done better. If it is a neighbourhood issue then can we meet with the neighbourhood about what the options are to mitigate the impacts of development with the neighbourhood. We need to look at the issue of fill being placed on properties on the North Alouette. I know it is an issue and has been in the past. It was not the best place to allow development in the first place seeing as it is a flood plain which floods every year. Many people have built berms in the past to protect their properties from flooding making the issue worse for the remaining areas. Fill within the ALR is allowed for agricultural purposes. It is not a simple matter and probably needs a holistic flood mitigation plan.
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.?.
I believe in compact development, mixed uses, a full spectrum of housing and transportation options, preserving open green spaces and agricultural food producing lands and open government that practices meaningful consultation. These are all principles of smart growth and form the basis of my platform. I also support maximizing the use of our existing infrastructure ie densifying our neighbourhoods – saving money and honouring the unique qualities of our neighbourhoods. I have been working towards many of these objectives for years. I have been part of Building Communities one neighbourhood at a time since its inception. I am on the Board of Alouette Home Start which is currently involved with Alouette Heights the supportive housing project currently being built. As the food security coordinator for Golden Ears FEAST I have been active in advocating for the preservation of the ALR and all food producing land in Maple Ridge. I care deeply about the social well being of our community and have chaired the Community Network our community planning table for the last 5 years. Much of my volunteer work has been in support of Smart Growth principles. Newport Village is an example of Smart Growth.
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 am not on council at this time so I am not sure if the OCP has been truly integrated into policies, budgets and business plans at the senior staff level. However I do know that it is council that drives this. If there is development going on that appears to not be following the OCP then it is supported by council.
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 am against any erosion of our ALR and have a strong record of 12 years of voting against ALR exclusions. It is essential that we protect our food producing land. The OCP is our principal planning document and needs to be respected although it needs some minor flexibility as it is tested on the ground. I do not believe in urban sprawl and would support densification within our current urban boundaries. Development within this boundary on vacant land and densification can accommodate all our population growth for the next 20 years. We have no need to sprawl out to accommodate population growth. We need to protect our green space and environmental sensitive areas. Survey work over the last 20 years has consistently shown a high response (over 90%) valuing our green space and environmental features.
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 did not support the the Pelton exclusion and in my capacity as Food Security Coordinator, wrote to the Commission to express this opposition on behalf of Golden Ears FEAST (Food Education & Action Strategy Table) membership of over 85 members. The ALR is under the jurisdiction of the ALC. A local council can not change this designation even if we had a referendum on this issue. I would not support a referendum in this case as it is a costly exercise on an issue we have no jurisdiction over. I do not support the exclusion of any ALR food producing lands. At the very least this application should have been referred to the Maple Ridge Agricultural Advisory Committee for comment.
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?
Absolutely. Council has established an advisory committee to give input, advise and recommendations on agriculture. It has a broad spectrum of citizens representing farming, farmers, food security and agricultural societies and is a wealth of knowledge. Council needs to respect and use their committees for their expertise. In addition we do have an agricultural plan that has been endorsed and should be followed. Why endorse a plan that you have no intention of following?
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?
This is not one of our current council’s strengths. They are not good listeners which is a prerequisite for good communications. For example the consultation on the Albion Flats was deeply flawed. In the beginning the consultant was hired with a consultation plan of focus groups, open houses and a charette. I participated in the entire process. I was representing both agricultural and social interests and I worked hard with the group to accommodate as many interests as possible and put forward a plan that would build a vibrant neighbourhood. The outcome of these processes did not please one (out of 25 groups who participated) development viewpoint and so council decided to reopen the process and include their proposal as an option. The consultants report and recommendations were not followed costing the municipality over $100,000. The proposal that was sent to the ALC was heavily influenced by this one group.
Consultation needs to be meaningful and not interfered with to produce the result that council wants rather than what citizens are putting forward.
We function under what is called a weak mayor system. All decisions are decisions of council and the mayor has only one of seven votes. To be a good leader the mayor needs to be a consensus builder.
Senior staff follow the dictates of council. When I was on council previously at one point council instructed staff to only bring positive recommendations forward. This made it extremely difficult for our planners whom we hire for their planning expertise, to bring forward negative comments on the lack of good planning in development proposals.
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?
This needs to be a council led initiative to encourage staff to be open to the ideas of the community. Internal education within the district on the principles of community development will help change the corporate culture as well as bringing together interdisciplinary staff groups to consider the input of neighbourhoods. The social planning department has done a good job of this and thanks to their work in bringing Jim Dyers from Seattle to talk about what community development can actually look like in neighbourhoods there is now an appetite to look at this in all the municipal departments. The Pickett Fence project that was done in Yennadon in the nineties was a good example of neighbourhood staff connections but it lacked a commitment from council to expand upon it.
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 would support a recreational Roadway proposal.. The costs of this need to be fleshed out and a implementation plan and timeline developed. It is a great idea.
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 want to review what currently is being done. If these measures are not working and your question suggests they are not, then I would look at what other options are viable. We also need to be mindful of the implications on our entire road system. We can not do one thing on one road that merely moves a problem somewhere else. But some of the improvements we have made have definitely negatively impacted other roads. For example the improvements on the back road have resulted in people using Shady Lane to avoid the wait for the lights at 216th. We need to explore what our options are to mitigate this and then implement them. In addition we do have to do these improvements within our budget so we need an implementation plan and a timeline. And we need to increase commuting options so that we can entice commuters out of their cars.
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?
It does make sense from a livability perspective however we also need the money to pay for it. The DCC’s come as we develop. We are always working within the constraints of our reserves and budgets. There is currently a loud refrain to not raise taxes. Council needs to balance many issues. Council does land use planning but the rate and what is built is in the hands of developers or others. For example we zone for schools but when they are built is dependent on the school district and provincial government funding.. We zone for commercial but the municipality is not the developer. You can look at incentives but you need to ensure that you are not shifting the costs of development onto the general tax payer. Recreational facilities are the one thing that the municipality does build. However in newly developed areas the neighbourhood parks and facilities are built as funds permit and according to the 5 year capital budget. They always lag behind the development. When I was first elected I voted against expanding into Silver Valley as I believed it would stretch the municipality too far. There was still lots of developmental land available within the urban boundary of the time. I believed more orderly development would allow the municipality to better keep up with the increased service pressures.
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?
It is true that as we grow as a municipality there are more cars on the road – 18,000 in the last decade. We need to build transit friendly density so that we can afford to increase transit. We need to put in more traffic calming measures. Traffic circles work but you need the space to build them. In our older neighbourhoods the street pattern often doesn’t have the space to do this. It is often our neighbours who are rushing thru our neighbourhoods so we do need more traffic enforcement and more education about the effects of speeding. If I am going thru your neighbourhood and I hit a person at 50 km//h I will hurt them but if I am speeding at 70 km/h I will most likely kill them.