Graham Mowatt

Vision:
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?

No it is not. Maple Ridge was named after the Maple tree, a tree with deep roots and rises to great heights. This motto means a lot to me in that the roots refer to the nurturing and care that our parents and their parents have given to the community to make Maple Ridge/Haney a great place to live. My parents moved here in 1949 because it was the place to start their business. They lived, worked, and volunteered here for over 50 years. For many years Maple Ridge ‘was’ the place to be, there was a balance between commercial and residential, most people lived and worked here, few found it necessary to commute. Those who did had an express bus in 1970’s from Maple Ridge to downtown Vancouver. Because of the decision of many Councils to approve substantive residential development without balancing it with the necessary commercial, the roots are dying, the heights are shrinking, we need to change the decisions of City Hall or “the tree” will die.

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

In general it does, however in Maple Ridge where the development has not been a balance between residential and commercial, it has been a major detriment. We have experienced excessive, annual tax increases to provide ever more services to the new subdivisions, more police, a full time fire department, larger city staff, the list goes on. Because the development has been so one sided, the majority of new residents have to leave the community to work severely increasing the congestion on our roads, increasing commuting time. Council has refused to demand sufficient infrastructure investment from Translink to deal with this problem. The quality of life in Maple Ridge has been seriously lowered by the type and location of the development councils have permitted.

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?

Residential development on its own makes absolutely no sense, nor is it a good fiscal policy to continue it, period. We need commercial development to rebalance the equation but the NIMBY’s make it difficult especially as past councils spend too much time talking, consulting, and negotiating with these groups instead of implementing changes.

The major problem is dcc’s do not account for all future infrastructure costs, especially as our population grows. Tax payers cannot afford to pay more for any infrastructure and it is impossible to charge developers enough to cover all expectancies.

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?

Fill farming is totally unacceptable on farmland. There is no planning being done by Maple Ridge whatsoever. The so called planning department should be renamed as the “Compliance Department” because all they do is determine if an application complies with zoning and regulations. There is no planning in the equation. All too often the wishes, desires, and concerns of the community are totally ignored by not only the planning department but by Council. This is unacceptable.

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 growth that the community can service, both for recreational, emergency services, but also for employment opportunities and the availability of shopping opportunities and transit. Smart Growth does not cause a community to deteriorate or become less livable. It does not destroy the beauty and abundant opportunities that nature has given us. Many cities in Europe are living examples of Smart Growth, people are born, work, live, and die in one town/city, there is no need to go anywhere else. We are at the opposite end of the equation. For the existing Council to boast that they support “Smart Growth” is an absolute lie, their actions prove otherwise.

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?

No! It has been totally ignored. The existing Council and senior staff regularly boast that the OCP is only a guideline, it is not something that cannot be “modified.” If there is any reason to replace the existing council it is the way they have thumbed their noses at the spirit of the OCP and the way they have allowed senior staff to run roughshod over it.

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?

Maple Ridge OCP – YES as it was meant to be, it is not a guideline to be altered with every new application.

ALR boundaries – yes with only one exception, the Albion development proposal as this is the only way Maple Ridge has a hope of ever rebalancing the residential/commercial tax equation within our lifetime.

Metro Vancouver Plan – NO. This plan has nothing in it for Maple Ridge, it is a plan for

Vancouver and the other large municipalities around it. This plan limits our options and dictates us to be a bedroom community for Vancouver. It solidifies excessive taxation for the next forty years as it limits our opportunity to develop a commercial tax base. The sooner we leave the GVRD the sooner Maple Ridge will be able to be creative with its planning and be able to reach our future potential. We were doing quite well prior to 1996 when we joined the GVRD. It’s time to realize that decision was a drastic mistake and to remedy it asap.

Maps of Environmentally Sensitive Areas; yes

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 participated in the discussions that led to the new OCP. The designation of the Pelton farm for industrial development was a major issue that was discussed and it was soundly defeated. There is an argument for exclusion of the upper part of the property that housed the greenhouses on the farm as the land has been severely compacted, however the vast majority is superior farmland and should not be excluded.

I am a firm supporter of referendum questions as this is a superior form of democracy. I made a suggestion to Council that instead of spending thousands of dollars on an ad campaign to get people to vote, it would be much cheaper and have a useful purpose to include several referendum questions on the ballot; they refused.

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?

I support using the AAC however it needs to be changed from its present form to be considered useful. Its total silence with respect to Council’s decision to send the Pelton application to the ALC is a prime example why there needs to be an improvement to make it worthy of a mandated inclusion into the process.

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?

Maple Ridge has been a total failure in this regard. They have regularly ignored concerns and community desires for communication and a different direction.

Senior Staff Level – Failure They regularly exhibit a “not interested” attitude to concerns or desire to change or offer suggestions of how decisions could be improved.

Council- Failure. Council regularly ignores petitions and group presentations that voice concerns or a desire to see an application turned down. They may listen but they still vote to allow the development anyway. The recent Grant Hill development is just the most recent example of this lack of desire to “listen” to the concerns of the community. I presented a petition of over 6,000 signatures of people wanting to save the Albion Ferry and was basically laughed at.

Mayor – Failure He listens but does not alter the process.

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?

The basis of this problem is the fact that the staff knows the Council is unwilling to make them accountable to the public. They know their boss, the CAO is the person in charge and they only have to ensure they have his support. They are also well aware that Council is unwilling to “take on” the CAO to make him accountable. The rate of development has absolutely nothing to do with this issue; the public pays the bills but are a powerless entity that can be ignored with impunity.

The need to correct this attitude is one of my primary concerns if elected. It is imperative that the public is treated with respect, courtesy, and in a professional manner by the staff, at all levels because that is their job! To be an inclusive community where the leadership listens to the concerns of the public is a goal that we should all strive for.

The solution is for the new Council to make it extremely clear to the CAO that the past is the past and what was acceptable by previous councils is no longer acceptable nor will it be permitted. He must be made very aware the expectations of the Council and Mayor and the importance that the new attitude and conduct is adopted by staff at all levels is to his continued employment status.

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?

Absolutely, this is one of the areas that could make Maple Ridge a desired destination for tourists and commercial interests alike. Let’s get to it!

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 River Road and participated in the community action group that was formed to deal with the speeding and volume issues we had. I experienced firsthand the absolutely unacceptable way staff deals with this type of concern and how they purposely drag out the process.

First this problem is a direct result of Council’s policy of encouraging urban sprawl without any concern to deal with the results; people having to drive to work because there is ineffective transit options and our infrastructure hasn’t been improved for years. This is compounded by the fact that the RCMP refuses to provide speed traps in the sensitive areas to enforce existing speed limits and to deal with the infractions that occur due to excessive volumes. I am against calming measures because they are expensive and they don’t work, especially the ones our Council uses; enlarged sidewalks at intersections, road narrowing measures, and the use of those silly plastic sticks. Before anything was done, I would ask the interest groups to a real meeting to see what options they want and have a real discussion re the options which include:

1. In the short term I would direct staff to investigate why other Municipalities seem okay with installing speed bumps. If we get acceptable reasons I would vote to supersede staff’s concerns, including that of police and fire chiefs, and have them installed. There are always other routes emergency vehicles can take to bypass the bumps.

2. I would vote to install 30km speed zones and have them monitored by the speed check volunteers. When the stats come in of massive speeders, the RCMP would be required to deal with the issue.

3, I would try to have staff survey the legality of using municipal police officers from other Municipalities to replace our traffic officers. We spend close to $1.5 million dollars on the officers assigned to the traffic enforcement section and if we could use other ways of giving moving violators a ticket, I would have no problem removing this expenditure from the RCMP budget and reassign it to an alternative to get more control of the problem.

4. I would try to have staff investigate the cost and legality of implementing a detachment of an existing Municipal Police department in Maple Ridge. If Council could get more control of where our policing dollars are spent this would be a major improvement.

5. I would make getting a greater return of the tax dollars we send to Translink for improved Transit options (an express to Vancouver) and infrastructure funding ( four laning Abernathy) a priority as this is the true cause of the problems. People are trying to get to work or home efficiently as the existing real routes are past capacity.

6. Work at getting a light rail system.

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?

Absolutely NOT! This is a major failure of this and past Councils. I was active when Mayor Hogarth spoke eloquently about his plans for Silver Valley and the “complete community” concept. He has been mayor and on two councils and nothing has been done. This is a travesty and if elected I would try to find ways to remedy this problem, perhaps by using P-3 financing for infrastructure projects.

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

This problem is very similar to the one above for River Road. The solutions are the same. However, 124th is a treasure that has to be protected and treasured. As a lifelong resident I consider this street as one of our treasures. It has to be a priority but whatever is done must be approved by the association first. There is no reason 124th has to be used as a cycle route, other streets just a little south could easily be an alternative. This is a narrow street with hidden driveways due to the large trees. The least we could do would be to make it a 30km zone, with speed control burms if the community approved. This would make it inappropriate for the “commuter”

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