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?
Deeper Roots Greater Heights is a lovely motto. To me, Maple Ridge’s roots are our forests and farmlands. If you have strong roots the tree will stand, and we must nurture our roots if we expect Maple Ridge to flourish into the coming century/ies. Preserving our food-producing lands is the only way to guarantee food security, and our forests are necessary for improved air quality and enjoyment of nature. I do not believe this motto is reflected in the decisions of City Hall, as exemplified by the Pelton exclusion and the Albion Flats area plan, and the Silver Valley area plan. The Maple Ridge insignia exemplifies the priorities of City Hall: a typical suburban house is raised above all else; building houses trumps nature and farmland. Without top consideration for our roots – forests and farmland – our quality of life will suffer now and even more so in the future.
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?
Short-sighted, profit-driven development results in a lower quality of life for residents in Maple Ridge for numerous reasons: 18,000 cars added in 11 years resulting in increased traffic, congestion and residential roads unfit for pedestrians and cyclists; rising property taxes to service more subdivisions with police, fire, sewer, water, and roads; loss of rural character (the reason so many people want to live here); loss of animal habitat; pollution of our rivers; tarnished viewscapes of Thornhill and Golden Ears; schools filled beyond capacity; disconnected community feel; the list goes on. Ensuring the quality of life for current residents should be the priority of council before accommodating more sprawl.
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?
Contrary to the popular opinion that we need more development to increase our operating budget (propagated by the growth machine agenda run by realtors and developers), there are numerous studies that reveal sprawl costs more to service than it generates in tax revenue ( Better Not Bigger, Eben Fodor). We need a sound, comprehensive fiscal analysis to determine how much development costs over time. Developers will often cover upfront costs of road, sewer, etc., but usually the municipality takes over their maintenance within a year. Let us be more knowledgeable about these long term costs so we can incorporate them as part of the development impact fees, instead of allowing the taxpayer to bear the burden.
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?
The development process is not being handled well, with no long term foresight and appropriate environmental impact studies. Where is the consideration for what level and type of growth our city can comfortably accommodate? We can allow more development in Maple Ridge but it should be on our terms; currently we are catering to the terms of the developer. We are too reactive and not proactive enough. This leads us to the question of fill farming, which is clearly not a suitable practice for farmland. Some farmers have circumvented the rules of the Act by claiming they are building roads to access their land. One farmer is building five roads across his property and earning $80 per load, 100 loads a day. The District should be strictly against this unacceptable practice for farmland and take action to prevent it until the Agricultural Land Commission bans this illegitimate use of farmland. It seems the District is taking advantage of farmland as a place to get rid of the by-products of their development projects and this is not right.
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 means developing in ways that can enhance our quality of life, not detract from it. We can preserve our natural surroundings by prioritizing infill, redevelopment, and densification. Smart Growth also means diverse housing means, well-designed neighbourhoods, and protecting agricultural lands. One city I admire is Boulder, Colorado, for acquiring a greenbelt system of 33,000 acres to define the natural borders of the city. The city has also acted progressively to create a larger share of affordable housing: 75% affordable housing and 25% market value. In Maple Ridge, we should explore Inclusionary Zones where the developers would be obliged to include a certain percentage of affordable units. Developing one-acre plots on Grant Hill highlights how off-the-mark Maple Ridge is when it comes to following Smart Growth principles.
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?
The principles of the OCP seem to be ignored by council and senior staff whenever they happen to inconvenience a development proposal. For example, the principle to preserve farmland goes out the window when pressure comes on the Albion Flats to be developed for shopping, or the Pelton’s property to be developed for a business park. In some cases the OCP is violated completely: for example swapping the development of Lower Jackson for Upper Jackson was a disconcerting negotiation that allowed for premature development of Thornhill. We must respect the sound planning advice in the OCP.
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?
My development decisions will absolutely be guided by compliance with the Maple Ridge OCP, ALR boundaries, Metro Van Regional Growth Strategy, and Maps of Environmentally Sensitive Areas. These documents have been carefully produced with the input of concerned and engaged citizens to help combat unfettered sprawl and build complete communities. They are the literal desires of the community and the region, and an elected representative’s role is to see the community’s objectives are realized.
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 support the exclusion of the Pelton farm from the ALR. I view the Agricultural Land Commission’s decision to keep this property in the ALR as vital success for agricultural land and for Maple Ridge. This move would have set the stage for further expansion to the north and our farmland everywhere would be at risk. The world population has reached 7 billion and is growing exponentially; it could reach 10 billion by 2050. I will continue to remain a firm supporter of the Agricultural Land Reserve as the primary means to guarantee our long term food security.
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?
The Agricultural Advisory Committee includes the protection of farmland in its Policy and Advocacy component; I support forwarding all applications that would impact agricultural land, farming and resources to the AAC for their comment.
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 do admire Diane Watts for her leadership and genuine commitment to Surrey. I believe community input should be the starting point for all significant projects in Maple Ridge, not the last resort. Councilors are not elected to advance their individual agendas, nor the agendas of a select few who will financially profit from their proposals, but rather the needs of the citizens themselves, and that can only be determined through ongoing listening and open accountability.
I would like to see more avenues for citizens to voice their concerns, such as a dashboard-style blog on the Maple Ridge website where suggestions, complaints, etc, can be written for the public to read, with the onus on council and staff to respond in the same open, highly accountable format.
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?
While choosing not to criticize staff, I believe the direction must to be made to stop bending over backwards for the developers and begin prioritizing the safety and needs of our current residents. This shift in focus must be clearly communicated to staff and also reflected in the budget.
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 absolutely do support this initiative. We should dedicate more roads to have pedestrians, cyclists, and horseback riders as the primary users with cars secondary. This is the perfect project that will benefit all Maple Ridge residents, not just those in Silver Valley and Alouette Valley, and it certainly has the potential to attract tourists to Maple Ridge. I am eager to promote Equestrian Tourism in Maple Ridge and this is exactly the project that will work towards that aim.
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?
We need to shift our priorities at District Hall, from building car-dependent subdivisions inadequately serviced by public transit, to ensuring the safety of our current residents. It is great news that the District agreed to install a sidewalk on Shady Lane but unfortunately River Road is still lacking this prerequisite to safety. The West Coast Express should be an ideal walk or cycle down the hill but as it is there is no room to walk safely and it is a risk to try. Maple Ridge staff insist there is not enough in the budget to put sidewalks on River Road, and they will not commit to traffic calming measures. We need speed humps or chicanes desperately on this street where cars will run stop signs and often pass each other. Pedestrian safety should be the number one priority in the budget.
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?
Silver Valley is definitely a prime example of short-sighted development driven by the “quick-buck” agenda. We are destroying our forests without bothering to plan a complete community. There are no parks, schools, or transit to service Silver Valley residents – I’ve been informed there aren’t even adequate streetlights! These residents are forced to be car-dependent and in the future we should avoid developing new areas until we can afford to provide supportive infrastructure. I would like to service these residents with commercial development, beginning with the location of the old Black Sheep pub. Streetlights going up the hill are also a priority. I would recommend placing a moratorium on future residential development in Silver Valley until the infrastructure is there for a complete community.
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
I would like to see speed humps or chicanes installed on residential streets that have turned into commuter rat routes. We could also do a publicity campaign to instruct people to slow down. Apparently there is no such thing as a 40 km speed limit but how difficult can it be to create one? 18,000 cars have been added to our roads since 1999; this number will keep rising unless we concentrate growth on density in the downtown core, well-known to be the only way to attract Light Rail transit.