Jacques Blackstone

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?

What deeper roots are to me is the Maple Ridge that it once used to be. The rural lifestyle out here, combined with the mountains and nature, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived at (and I intend to stay here).
Let me tell you a little story about me: I was born in Paris and was 3 months old when we moved to Montreal. At the age of 10 we moved to LA for a number of years, then Dallas for 5 years (my studies), and I’ve been in BC since 1986. The first time I came back from Hawaii, my thoughts as I gazed out the window as we were approaching at YVR is how beautiful BC is. That says a lot!
I’ve lived in concrete most of my life and Vancouver is a village compared to these cities. What I’m trying to say is a big ‘city kid’ like myself has fallen in love with Maple Ridge. I love the deer that walk around my property, the regular family of raccoons, and even the bear (just wish he would not poop in my yard) so I do see the deep roots and understands very well what everyone wants to hang on to; and I don’t blame you. Seeing other municipalities around us makes me cringe at times at how dense they are.
The problem that Maple Ridge has created is exactly the situation we are facing today: Yearly rising property taxes and the lack of services and amenities. Entering the ring right now has allowed me to see the passion and the anger from both sides of the issue. I am beginning to understand better now the overall problem. We can all agree; retain farm lands and give us shopping but don’t take away our rural lifestyle yet stop increasing my taxes. An easy task! (Irony for those who read a bit slower)

We need to agree to disagree and come to a common ground. Realistically, as with anything in life, it has to be give and take (like a relationship – we have to live with each other). The wonderful part I see about Maple Ridge is that we can actually, and very easily, create all of this combined with little give and take from either side. I wish to introduce what I call creative planning. Just because other municipalities do things their way does not mean we have to? We can engineer anything these days.
We can have the shopping, parks, sports/family centers, industrial, more homes, and transportation, yet retain the rural aspect and nature lifestyle. We can design a completely new and revolutionary method for developing a city and making subdivisions. We are in the 21st century and we learned a lot the past 100 years. What we do know is that we need some major modifications to make sure that our planet can sustain us.

I have a vision: Say we are slated to develop 50,000 homes in Maple Ridge (random number), why don’t we instead accept around 30,000 homes so that we can maintain the farmland areas and allow the designated areas to be developed. By reducing the amount of homes, we have reduced the green impact and are capable to retain more trees and existing nature. Neighborhoods developed into the countryside, not re-planted greenery. Larger lots (like in the old days), with tasteful homes and instead of adjoining backyards, a greenbelt separation that has a bike/travel lane, play areas for children, and dog walk areas.

We could funnel the streets into dedicated mini arteries that are hidden in woods to reduce pollution and noise that feed to the major roads. Somewhere along these roads we could have the Smarthgrowth mini centres that provide a community with the basics. This would keep the bike lanes away from traffic and provide ultimate safety, provide a continuous greenbelt to as many homes as possible, give car commuters’ easy access with minimal lights and congestion to minimize their travel time to and from work which will give more home time and reduce emissions.
In doing so, the remaining 20,000 homes would have to go to further municipalities. In due respect, we would have to build better larger main arteries to allow the throughput for commuters. This is now where we can make the change with new thinking: Make 1 travel lane and 1 car pool lane but allow single riders in the car pool lane who drive a 100% electric vehicle. So by allowing urban sprawl we can start majorly reducing the carbon emission from vehicles with such incentives. Creating arteries with minimal traffic lights and stops, you increase the efficiency of electric or fossil fuel driven vehicles, reduce harmful gases, reduce road rage, reduce stress, reduce travel time, and increased family time. But the most important, a new family with a home incorporated into nature for their kids to grow up in.
I hope that I’ve started your minds whirring a bit. Forget everything you know about how a city looks, and imagine what it can be. I could go on and write a novel right now but you know what, come and talk to me. I will be adding some of my visions on the website but not right now; my docket is a little full.
This is what the ‘Greater Heights’ part of the motto is to me. I’m glad it’s there because this motto represents both sides. Let’s all start having coffee soon and roll up our sleeves. I’m ready to listen, I’m ready to butt heads, but without everyone’s input, bickering this way won’t get us anywhere and only propagate the status quo. I will enforce the motto. I have faith in all of us.

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 myself call it more sporadic development. My situation is that since I’ve moved to Maple Ridge, Rockridge got developed. Now I’m not speaking out against Rockridge itself (beautiful homes), it’s the fact that all of these people who paid top dollar for a quality home only have a funnel of a road to drive on.

They’re options for connecting to the arteries is very limited to 132nd, 128, and 232nd. I can understand their frustration too, they paid a lot of money for those homes and they do not have a proper road. They have been dubbed ‘Maple Ridge raceway’.

This ‘rapid development’ is precisely what I am talking about. The development added extra needed revenue to the city and to not raise any controversy, the surrounding properties and their impact on added density and traffic flow has now made these one-time quiet streets the problem they are today. I think this backfired. Thus now, making any future development less appealing (maybe this was the intention?).

Again, creative planning has to be done and both sides must come together and discuss each other’s needs, not each other’s wants. It will eventually work. I believe we can easily alleviate the traffic problem from Rock Ridge; and everywhere else.

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?

It will only make economic sense if it is done right! Continuing anything without a plan is never cost effective in any venture. No, I cannot provide any details at this time and my understanding is that developers pay the cost of the infrastructure, the city then assumes the maintenance afterwards. So since they have to obtain permits from us and abide by the city’s codes, let’s make sure that we get the best installed! It may cost the developers a little more now but this is easily added to the cost price of a house and they could use this fact as advertizing this new ‘creative planning’ concept.

Build Maple Ridge for the future

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 would think that it may have helped somewhat if the residents on the affected streets with excessive dump trucks were informed and/or consulted ahead of time with a forecasted road use plan and end date projection at the development stage, that it may have reduced some animosity. Because we all know that once this area of development is done, the dump trucks are gone; but the traffic remains.

I do not have enough information on the fill farming aspect. Only what has verbally been told to me and I cannot base my opinion on just this, I would need to see some documentation pertaining to the issue. Not enough information for an appropriate answer.

Ask me about how and when you will lose your rights to defend your property and the city will have ultimate power over it and ask me about Smart Meters. These must be stopped. They are coming to Maple Ridge in December (merry x-mas to you).

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 is just the latest urban planning theory that many people have accepted. Again, I think we need to create intelligent growth, a new and innovative way of development and become the leaders in this. To show to all other municipalities what can be done. Stop being sheep.

To me, the theory of Smart Growth is good if we wish to herd people like cattle into condos close to rail lines or mass transit. What will be the next step? To dictate to people what their vocation should be or limit how far they are allowed to be employed because they are causing too many CO2 emissions? Oh yeah, let’s throw in the Smart Meter that lets you know when you’ve used too much power that day and the Bylaws department sending you a notice or fine by mail for doing so.

Under Smart Growth, the homes are thrown close together; an occasional lot is not developed and deemed a park, and now what used to be independent corner stores will probably be a corporate chain of moderate size store(s) with everything you need under the pretext of Smart Growth. There’s the ‘Smart’ part to me; someone thought about how to corner this market now (no pun intended). Don’t ask me what I think of the ‘growth’ part! This system seems to favour real estate agents and developers more than ever, not the people that need homes.

Adding condo towers and densifying a city is to me, a bad idea. Has anyone forgotten the projects in New York? And under the pretext of Smart Growth, is everyone capable of owning a home with land or just a privileged few? This doesn’t sound at all what Maple Ridge should be. Does it to you? Intelligent Growth is better, let’s listen to our hearts, not what they’re telling us is good!

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?

For everyone who is for the densification of the downtown core, let me ask you this: When you were a child, did you grow up in a condo? I know I want to give my children one day the opportunity to buy a house with land for their children.

When it comes to sprawl, when your forefathers travelled from the east of Canada to the west coast and established cities across this great country, was that not sprawl? If they had stayed on the east coast, we would not be discussing this today. Come to think of it, there would be no Maple Ridge!

I’m a believer that every man, woman, and child’s right in a great country as ours, has the right to own land. To own your spot on planet Earth that you can call home. I cannot agree on the term urban sprawl as it is being used these days. As far as answering the question: Don’t know! Vote for me and I’ll make sure that everything that goes through my hands will be viewed and discussed with Senior Staff.

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?

Are there people that will actually ignore any of these? If so, I hope that they drop out of the race because their opinions would be biased and not fully informed. Being on council should be a decision of logic, not personal agenda and/or ideology. So whichever, or all, of the above listed organizations are required for the decision making process at hand should be applied in their appropriate manner and jurisdiction.

Personally, all of planet Earth is an environmentally sensitive area.

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 answer – require further information. I am not a farmer or an agrologist.

When you mention referendum, this is where I propose my on-line user idea and hold ‘Weberendums’. Minimal expense for the city and maximum input from the citizens. This would make Maple Ridge the first completely interactive city in the world. It would make it easy for just about anything to get a majority consensus and that’s what a city should be, for the people!

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?

If the AAC is a pertinent and a committee required for the decision making process of any concern(s), then yes, hearing a report from them would be useful in decision making.

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 was a target of Bylaws enforcement in May of 2010. I had many meetings with senior staff up until April of 2011 and faced much opposition. In my boardroom meeting with the Bylaws department, what I had to present and the letters of support from my fellow neighbours fell on deaf ears and I was told that all of this was irrelevant. It was very difficult in talking to anyone and in some instances; I was made to feel as if I were a nuisance; I now became the villain. It was not until a group was organized on Facebook and we approached council, did I, or any of us, feel that we finally got heard and treated with respect.
So an official thank you to mayor and council, you listened to your people. On a side note, if the new Bylaws Dispute Adjudication System were in place, we’d all be left out in the cold and forced to comply. Do your research people, this is a serious issue here.
I have to be honest and say that I was impressed by some council members at the attention they gave in listening to us (the RV and trailer owners) and was disappointed by others. I am disappointed that since the request had been made to staff that it took so long for a report and that it is still ongoing. It’s beginning to look like the worse attempt at a stall tactic. It’s only been a year and a half on my situation with the city, what’s another 10 years?
Again, this is now directed at senior staff, not mayor and council. It seems like to them this is a small issue when realistically, hundreds upon hundreds of people are still afraid of a knock on the door from Bylaws; they are still afraid that they may have to move or sell their unit of contention; They just want peace and to get on with their lives. This stall technique that’s been applied is only a detriment to their position and is infuriating more and more people. 28 of us Candidates running should be a clue to them!
This is what I intend to change. That matters and affairs that stem from you, the public, need to be solved in an expedient manner and by the most cost effective means. Bring a business approach to a city’s response towards its citizens.

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?

I personally think that my idea of getting our city ‘online’ more than a website, but an interactive user interface making you an active voice and member of your city. This way, you would become a ‘user’ with a profile (much like a Facebook idea) but for Maple Ridge only. Not only could you be involved with the development, but even to participate and actually have a voice. Staff will have no choice but to listen because now it is there for all to see. We can make a city truly transparent.
For a complete description of my concept idea, please visit http://mapleridge2011.com/Opinion.html
With having such a system in place, the Bylaws Dispute Adjudication System (or BDAS) would not be happening. I must direct your attention to this for a moment as this is highly important. In a few months, our city will be voting in the new BDAS system which will render you powerless in the protection of your property over the demands of city hall. Next month BC Hydro is installing Smart Meters in Maple Ridge. A company named Halcrow is writing for Maple Ridge a new bylaw and zoning book that will impact us for decades.
Visit my site under Adjudication at http://mapleridge2011.com/Adjudication.html
Have you asked any of the other candidates about these things that will change our lives forever here? Anyone ever question why these things are not topics of contention? Am I the only one here seeing a problem in a few years?

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?

I like the idea proposed but I fail to see the economic revenue, I’m sorry. Would such a trail be nice? Yes! I saw that the rollerblading portion of the survey on the AVA’s presentation only showed a low 5 but being a roller blader I would love to have a trail to go to. I’ve tried many times around my neighborhood but the speeding cars and the rocks are not a great combo. But only from 216th to 232nd, I fail to see the advantage in the grand scheme of things as this is a very limited portion. In my youth I would ride my bike at least 20km’s in a single direction; these 2 roads are maybe 2km’s apart.

So I would completely support the idea but not necessarily the concept. I always like greater separation from vehicles on unprotected transportation. Why? Because if I, my wife, and my two boys want to go out one day on blades or bikes, I want to make sure that vehicular accidents are zero. A car can always jump a curb, that’s why they are called accidents.
Back to my idea: creative planning and Intelligent Growth. We have lots of work to do and I look forward to this. Maple Ridge, we will rock!

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 live on 128th and experience the 150kph+ speeds occasionally so I can empathize. City hall has allowed for development but did not increase key roads to handle and direct this increased traffic. This is what we need to do. To add speed bumps and traffic calmed areas should be our last resort.
We need to look at the source and the destination(s). We must then make a decision as to which road gets the increased and controlled traffic. Back to creative planning, a lot can be done with tress and greenery to make this work. Greenery also reduces noise and pollution.

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

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?

A few weeks ago, a young man was hit on 132nd and airlifted to hospital. He just passed away last week from his injuries. A friend of mine has been warning the city for months as she lives on this street (the medivac was on her lawn actually) and telling the city that: “Will this take for someone to be killed before you do anything?” Now the city has no choice but to say yes! I think someone had better jump on this because I believe this will happen again. I know what it feels like living on this kind of road and I don’t think they do. Hopefully you understand my stance on this aspect. I will make this one of my priorities.

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