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?
To me Deeper Roots tells the world that we respect our background and heritage as a rural community. Greater Heights says that we aspire to achieve lofty goals without destroying those things which brought us here to begin with. I think council and staff attempt to integrate these elements in the decision making process.
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 can be a great benefit to Maple Ridge if it is properly planned. With development we can promote a vibrant lifestyle through the support and growth of cultural and recreational activities. Properly planned development can also attract appropriate commercial and industrial growth which can help lessen the burden of property tax on homeowners.
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 should not be a secret to anyone who has ever held public office that residential development by itself is seldom sustainable without either tax increases; or, preferably, suitable industrial and commercial growth to provide local jobs and other sources of tax revenues.
District financial statements cannot include future costs because the statements reflect actual expenses already incurred. The five year plans, although always as detailed and accurate as some would prefer do show anticipated and planned expenditures for a variety of municipal responsibilities. The plans are not an exact science because it is not always possible to predict changes in anticipated funding from senior levels of government.
The costs of infrastructure to support new development should always be paid by the development, not the general taxpayer.
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 believe the development process is handled well in most cases but there are exceptions such as the Alouette Valley and the fill farming issue.Large scale fill farming such as the Alouette Valley has experienced should not be allowed without the full involvement of all stakeholders, including provincial and federal environmental officials, the GVRD, the Agricultural Land Commission, the municipality and affected residents.
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, sustainable communities and affordable housing are cute buzzwords but don’t have much meaning in Maple Ridge. Pitt Meadows is the closest example of how Smart Growth can work but it has been much easier to achieve in Pitt Meadows which has a small compact residential district as compared to Maple Ridge which stretches out in a 16=mile long ribbon between the Fraser River and the mountains.
Smart Growth in Maple Ridge should include plans for commercial expansion to suit neighbourhood requirements while at the same time proving the encouragement necessary to attract suitable commercial development in the core.
Affordable housing can sometimes be unaffordable to the surrounding community and can depend on how affordability is achieved. If it comes at the cost of an additional tax burden on existing homeowners, it is not acceptable. Lowering standards to achieve affordable housing is equally unattractive.
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 was a member of council when the original official community plan was adopted. It was envisioned that substantial infill would have to take place prior to considering development in the urban reserves. The change which allowed the existing urban boundary to be shifted from 240th Street to the western edge of Thornhill has created planning chaos. Originally the land south of Kanaka Creek and east of 240th to Thornhill was to remain a green area. Development of that land has led to a severe shortage of schools and other essential elements and will prove costly to remedy in the future. The Thornhill urban reserve was never meant to be considered for development for several decades and would have ultimately led to the economically feasible extension of city water to that area. Until recently the demands of municipal council and planning staff for the development of property in the downtown area created a virtual economic ghetto where it was simply not feasible for developers to undertake projects. Hopefully that is changing and will encourage new growth in the core and help mitigate the problem of urban sprawl.
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?
I believe council and staff make every effort to integrate the OCP into policies, budgets and business plans for the municipality/
If elected, I will abide by the ALR boundaries and other governing documents including respecting 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 do not generally support the use of referenda for land use decisions.
I would support the exclusion from the ALR that portion of the Pelton farm that has been alienated from agricultural use. Some of that property is covered with a layer of gravel and some concrete. The cost to rehabilitate that portion of the land for agricultural uses would be prohibitive.
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 would support the referral of any land use applications that could affect farmland to the Agricultural Advisory Committee.
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 mayor, council and senior staff are moving towards greater communication with the public but there are still some areas that require attention. I think all municipal staff who deal with the public should receive hospitality training.
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 bureaucratic process at municipal hall could also be streamlined to reduce stress stemming from the workload of some staff and that in turn would improve relations between staff and the public.
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 would support the Alouette Valley initiative.
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?
The installation of traffic calming devices on some streets and the coming installation fo a pedestrian activated signal on 224th Street are helpful initiatives along with the recent stepped up police enforcement in the downtown area.
I don’t believe the recent work on 124th Avenue will achieve any reduction in speeding vehicles. The main benefit of thatproject is the sidewlak which will increase pedestrian safety.
The use of 132nd Avenue as a commuting corridor for Silver Valley residents will probably continue until the Abernathy corridor is eventullay upgraded.
Traffic calming devices the western end and stop signs on other sections of River Road seem to have provided some relief from rat runners who used River Road as an alternate route to the Lougheed Highway but the length of time it took to complete the eastern end of the road from Darby Street to Carshill is not acceptable. The solution to the speeding problem on these streets will have to involved stepped up police traffic enforcement.
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?
To put it in its simplest form, the municipality has screwed up in terms of providing Silver valley with many things including promised parks, schools and other services such as transit.
A Silver Valley neighbourhood park has been promised for ten years and might come into being in the next couple of years. That sort of time delay is not acceptable.