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” recognizes the importance of historical Maple Ridge to our community and the value of the environment around us, “Greater Heights” represents the progress we would like to see in the future.
This should be reflected in day-to-day decisions: we need to respect and protect what is important to us in Maple Ridge such as the farmland and parkland around us. These are attributes of our area that attracted many people to Maple Ridge and need to be retained. At the same time, we need to have local jobs, shopping, and services to support a growing population. We have areas already designated in the OCP, such as the downtown core, where this development belongs and should be encouraged.
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?
Development in the outlying areas costs the Municipality money because it is expensive to deliver municipal services; such as roads, sewer, and water; over greater distances. In fact, it is more expensive than the increase in property tax revenues the Municipality receives due to those developments.
Development in areas that are already designated for higher density residential, commercial, industrial, and retail benefits the community in a couple ways: We do need the additional services to support a growing population and development in these areas results in an increased tax revenues at a lower cost to the Municipality, reducing financial pressures that could result in higher property taxes
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?
Development in the outlying areas does not make economic sense because the cost to the municipality to provide services to those developments is higher than the increased tax revenue. Developers should be paying for the cost of new infrastructure requirements but this is not the only cost that goes up with urban sprawl. Once we have this additional infrastructure, we need to maintain it. That also puts financial pressure on property tax payers.
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?
According to the ALC document “Guidelines for Farm Practices Involving Fill” published in December 2006, “the placement of fill in the ALR is a non-farm use activity and is illegal without approval or authorization of the ALC”. I am not familiar enough with the situation on the North Alouette River to know if the approvals have been obtained or if the specific land involved is within the ALR. I would have no problem imposing a moratorium on the depositing of fill to give council time to become better educated on this situation. Clearly, any action that would increase the risk of flooding to neighbours properties is not acceptable.
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.?.
When I read through the OCP and Community Plans it reads like a great description of Smart Growth with small commercial/retail nodes supporting neighbourhoods with access to transit, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure and a higher density in the downtown core.
I then look at the current issues facing Maple Ridge with economic pressures to increase property taxes due to urban sprawl, a lack of transit, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure, and the most important issue some people want to debate is whether we should have a large shopping center outside our downtown core. It doesn’t look like the OCP is being considered when decisions about development applications are being made.
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 would appear that the OCP is not being effectively followed.
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?
Yes, following these guides is critical for a healthy community
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?
A referendum can be costly but is a worthwhile approach to major changes to our community. No, I do not support the exclusion of any farmland from the ALR.
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?
Yes, this makes a lot of sense. All our committees are valuable resources for collecting information in order to allow council to make good decisions. We need to provide them as much information about future issues as we can to make effective use of these committees.
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?
There have been times that decisions have been made that demonstrate good use of community input, such as the development incentive program for the downtown core
Other decisions, like delaying the installation of a pedestrian-controlled light on 224th in a neighbourhood with elderly residents seem to ignore the input from the community. It shouldn’t take an election campaign to change decisions like this.
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?
It is difficult to comment directly on this as I have not personally encountered issues like this. It may be that in some situations staff do not know how to resolve some issues or have policies on how to direct people for more information.
We have a valuable resource in our committee structure to communicate important information to council. We need to make better use of this resource and involve staff in directing people to the appropriate committee for discussion of issues and encourage people to contact council members for issues that don’t get resolved in other ways.
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 fully support this initiative. Also see comments below in response to River Road Association question.
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?
Through my work with the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the VACC, I have done extensive reading on the concepts around “Complete Streets”, the goal being to safely accommodating all road users. Streets are not simply about finding the fastest way to move cars from point A to point B. The design of a street has a significant impact on each neighbourhood. We need to give people the opportunity to get engaged in the process of designing their own neighbourhoods, then carefully listen to their input and find creative ways to implement their ideas.
From what I understand, the recent issue with the road improvements not getting done in River Road was, in part, a result of getting turned down for funding by the Provincial and Federal governments for funding these improvement. Currently, there is growing support for funding cycling infrastructure by senior governments but in order to demonstrate we have a commitment to improving cycling infrastructure, we need a community plan for a full cycling network, and how it connects to other communities. Presenting projects in isolation without demonstrating this connectivity in an overall plan isn’t going to get us funding. Cycling is only part of a Complete Street but it may be the part that will motivate senior governments to fund improvements to make our streets safer for all road users.
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?
It doesn’t make sense to continue developing in an area that doesn’t have the infrastructure to support it. The development in Silver Valley is an example of a heavily car-focused community instead of a people-focused community. The Silver Valley community plan clearly lays out a balanced approach with shops, schools, and recreational facilities. Building the services required to support Silver Valley costs money but by starting to develop this area Maple Ridge made a commitment to provide those services through the community plan. We need to follow through on that commitment by working closely with the community to determine priorities and funding in such a way as to not cause significantly increased property taxes.
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
In all areas of Maple Ridge, it is important to take a “Complete Streets” approach to road design to safely accommodate all road users: streets need to be designed by the neighbourhood for their neighbourhood. They need to be a safe place for pedestrians, cyclists, and in some areas like the Alouette Valley, for equestrians. There has been enough work done by other communities to prove that proper design of “Complete Streets” also makes them safer for drivers.
One solution to quiet neighbourhood streets being used as a shortcuts by drivers is as simple as turning it into a dead-end street with continued access for pedestrians and cyclists at the blocked end. This was successfully done on Argue St in Coquitlam. Whether this solution would work for Shady Lane needs to be decided by the residents in the neighbourhood.
More from Alex at www.alexpope.org