Please find my comments to your questionnaire For further information you can see my web site kenstewart.caOr email email@example.com Ken Stewart
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 of the motto would be; the community has been around for long time with a broad historical base fashioned by industrial, cultural and residential components contributing to the “Deep Roots”. By striving to improve on the basic principals the Municipality can reach its potential, taken to “Greater Heights. As with any forward thinking, it is often important to realize how you got to where you are now. As you move to a better future, the question is always are we doing the right thing and ultimately, will this get us closer to the community we wish for? Is this reflected in the day to day decisions of District Hall? It does for me, but I am sure there are many employees who are just trying to get through the workload on their desk. Therefore we have to keep the vision alive while ensuring those who do the work on the ground have the direction and tools to get the job done. 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.
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?
For many of the residents who have moved into the district, they moved in because it was an improvement to their quality of life. That is why they moved here. This does have an impact for the people that were there before. Growing up on River Road in the fifties and sixties would by many seem to be “Leave it to Beaver” perfect. Though we had no leisure centre or ice rink and went to New Westminster for any special health care or many of our shopping needs. So has the quality of live improved? In many ways yes, as far a services and amenities have increased, with regards to congestion, traffic and crime no. Comparatively in the lower mainland the outdoor recreational opportunities of our community are number one. With many of our new residential areas close or adjacent to open outdoor space I would take this as an improvement to those who live there.
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?
First there are many types of development. Good economic development obviously by definition makes good economic sense. I think you would find very limited opposition to developments that created new permanent jobs in our community, especially in industries or commercial opportunities with little or low environmental impacts. I would like to first state that through DCC’s (development cost charges) developers do and should be paying for the cost of new infrastructure. If DCC’s are currently not sufficient to cover the costs they should be adjusted to reflect those actual costs. The problem is not so much new development but the split of tax rates between residential, farm, industrial, commercial and institutional. It comes down as to who pays; for every dollar received by the Municipality from residential home taxes it provides a dollar and half worth of service, for every three dollars of commercial tax paid, one dollar is paid for service. This is a general rule of thumb and the denser the housing units the closer the dollar collected gets to the dollar spent. Given this formula the more we can increase the commercial and industrial tax base in relation to residences the better off our community is. So to be fair, all residences old and new are in the same situation, denser residences and other increases in tax generating properties are the solution.
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?
First, I believe you have to separate the issues, Silver Ridge development and farm filling. With regards to part of the development planning process, there were grading guidelines put in on new subdivisions to limit removal of material from the sites. It sounds like lots of material being moved off the site. If it is truly extra and needs to be removed it has to go but it should end up at an appropriate place.
Fill farming on open fields is not an appropriate practice unless the soil is better than the soil currently in place which is very seldom the case and it does require a permit to move soil on ALR lands. Degrading farm lands by there use as profit making fill sites is wrong and in most cases probably illegal. We have seen dramatic changes in the natural run off channels in the North Alouette by man made intrusion and structures. Water will always find the path of least resistance, the District is trying to work with the neighbourhood to reduce the risks but it is still a flood plain.
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.?.
Without doing a 20 page paper on Smart Growth, I‘ll try and do a short definition. Smart growth is a method of both new development and redevelopment that is comprised of all the components that are needed to have a complete community with jobs, schools, shops, community meeting areas and recreational opportunities. A number of smart growth neighbourhoods each a bit diversified in harmony with open spaces and natural features combined with necessary infrastructure and the latest technologies would make up a smart community. Having been quite well traveled I have seen many components of smart growth that would include connective trails, mix of shops and residences, local markets, integrated transportation and often the latest technologies that also reduce the need for dirty energies. In many ways smart growth is a reflection back to the village concept before the automobile.
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 that the OCP is front and centre with all planning processes of the District.
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?
To bind yourself to the compliances of all the jurisdictions that you mentioned may at times leave you in conflict, as there are often contradictions between them. The OCP should be the paramount guiding document we go to, as this has gone through numerous community reviews, though at times other agencies may trump Council decisions
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 have followed the ALR and actions of the ALC closely for years and what I believe and what the ALC has ruled has been fairly consistent. In recent years very little land has come out of the ALR in Maple Ridge. If you follow the ALR from 1972 you will see inconsistencies which put unsuitable lands north of the Fraser River in to allow prime farmland south of the Fraser to stay out. Good farm is good farm land and if in the ALR should stay in, I have very little sympathy for those who bought their lands post 1972 knowing full well it was in the ALR and now argue it should come out. The only exception which is in the Act, is for a property that in the best interest of the community where all or a portion could be used for another purpose. Given the guidelines for the commissioners of the ALC they made the right call.
I think that going to referendum in this case would have been a waste of both time and money as the ALC had yet to rule and even if they ruled in favour of the application it would have still had to go through full rezoning complete with public hearings.
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?
I was on the AAC from it’s inception till 2008 and at that time Council did seek the advice from the committee on farm development. Two points though, the committee was an advisory committee and that the controversial issues were lands that were within the Provincial Agricultural Land Reserve. There are many agriculturally zoned landed under the OCP that are outside the ALR. Other than the Albion issue I see very few exclusion applications on the horizon. I believe that more pressing issues for the AAC are how to get many unused farmlands into production and to encourage the owners to stop letting them fall in disrepair under fields of blackberries and noxious weeds.
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 think this is a question more appropriate for the citizens of Maple Ridge than those seeking office. Most incumbents will tell you they think there are doing a good job and those seeking their current spots will be critical as they want their jobs. I will comment a bit on staff, as you must remember when we go looking for staff we are competing with cities like Surrey.
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?
The simplest answer is to involve your councilors, that why they get paid the big bucks use them wisely. Senior staff does follow the OCP, sometimes I see certain members of the community that didn’t get their way in the OCP and think their opinion is more important than the wishes of the majority. The constant negativism sometimes turns staff off.
Again there are monthly meeting on development this is always a good place to start the dialogue.
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?
Great group of people with good ideas, I look forward to working with them again.
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?
All the areas mentioned are suffering due to the lack of east west corridors. Traffic is like water it always finds the path of least resistance. In the short term we have seen a number of new stops signs and four way stops, also the narrowing at crosswalks have helped to slow traffic down. The solutions include a northern bypass and improvement to the Haney bypass. The northern bypass would help all areas mentioned Silver Valley, Shady, Lane, River Road and 132nd. If Abernathy were put to four lanes from Golden Ears Way to 240th and connected to 256th this would alleviate much of the side street traffic. This route should also have a separated lane for bikes and recreation travel. Additional traffic calming strategies could also be employed so it would be much faster for commuters to stay on the main routes.
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?
First with regards to access and egress, there was a plan for a new crossing around 240th, across the Alouette connecting with the upgraded Abernathy. I am not sure where that is at now but it certainly is on my list. With regards to shops and services, it is hard to force businesses to locate, the property is designated on the OCP and in time there should be enough demand for the businesses to show up. Unfortunately we have not yet seen a big enough developer come in with the resources and commitment to do a complete community, instead it still a bit piece meal. Instead of build it and they will come, we get let them come then we will think about building it.
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
Please see the comments for River Road. Also, it will be interesting to see if the recent works will have any effect on traffic.