Graeme Ross

Vision:
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?

Our motto, Deeper Roots Greater Heights, means as a community, we can use our collective knowledge to build a prosperous and successful future. Maple Ridge residents have a variety of skills and experience that should be utilized to continue to create a vibrant community. Council should always consider our heritage, our present concerns and our future needs in all decisions.

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.

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 is important to the future of Maple Ridge, but it needs to be done in a sustainable and reflective way. Industrial and commercial development will help improve the quality of life by bringing in a new tax base to ease the burden on homeowners; currently, we as homeowners pay the majority of taxes in Maple Ridge. When development is left unchecked however, it can have a negative impact on the quality of life for residents, so strict guidelines are needed.

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?

Properly placed, commercial and industrial development makes sense and I believe it needs to be encouraged. Private institutions would not push through projects without understanding the cost benefit. Too often taxpayer money is lost because, unlike a private business where profit is vital to success and so, efficiency is important, government officials are often less strict because it is not their money. This is why I have signed the contract with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, as I believe that house taxes should be capped at the inflation rate; we need to demand more government efficiency to help keep taxes low. Also, strategically placed industrial and commercial development can ease the tax burden. I believe developers should continue to contribute toward the infrastructure needed, but if we devote our focus to the town core we can limit this cost.

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?

As residents are expressing discontent I have to acknowledge that the planning process in Maple Ridge should have more community input and support. Fill farming can have a very negative cost to the area both environmentally and socially and therefore should be avoided on farmland.

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.?.

To me smart growth means using the existing infrastructure to preserve natural beauty and avoid urban sprawl. Although not perfect, the revitalization of the Whalley area of Surrey demonstrates some attributes of Smart Growth. It has mass transit connecting the area to downtown Vancouver, shopping at Surrey Central, education at a SFU satellite campus and high density housing within 3 blocks of all of this. Residents of the area can live, work/study and play in the same area.

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?

While council has achieved some positive progress, it seems there are several developments outside the core which are not working within the scope of the OCP. I would like to see council be a strong advocate for the residents of Maple Ridge and work with senior staff to keep our community on track with 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?

Ultimately my decisions will be in the best interest of Maple Ridge residents, and with their support, since they are giving me my mandate; respecting these boundaries is a priority as they are set out for an important reason. I will act using common sense solutions in every case.

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 need to have the support of residents to suggest any major changes to the OCP. A quick study of the Pelton farm issue suggests there is major opposition from residents on the proposal. There may be other, more suitable areas, which could be developed without any applications to amending the ALR. They should be considered first.

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?

Council needs to use every available resource when making such important decisions. I would enjoy the discussion with the AAC and would value their expert opinion to help me make well informed and balanced decisions that I can justify to the residents of Maple Ridge.

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 genuinely want full community input, and I will work to improve the availability and transparency of council decisions. Communication is at the heart of well-run organizations. With new ways of communicating, we can use what’s available to work with residents. Maple Ridge residents have a variety of strengths and life experience that should be used as an important resource when planning.

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?

I would like to see a more inclusive decision making process. The route of the problem seems to be unclear explanations for decisions made by senior staff and council. When people are confident in their decisions, justification is easily communicated. I would like to see a panel of senior staff working with volunteer city resident representatives to discuss recent decisions and have those discussions published. When people feel they do not have a receptive channel to express their concerns or suggestions, they become disengaged which leads to apathy and residents who are disengaged.

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 this initiative as it seems like common sense. This kind of plan does costs money, and I think we would have to look at some of the suggestions in the presentation. As this seems good for the people, it follows that it will be good for the city.

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 would like to research some traffic calming measures that may work to help these areas. I understand speed humps are not recommended for use in Maple Ridge, but perhaps this can be reconsidered for some areas. I think there should be more communication between residents and the district before construction to ensure everyone has a say. Regardless of the chosen traffic calming measure, we need to implement our choice quickly as this is a safety concern.

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?

There must be strict consequences if developers do not support their communities with the agreed infrastructure. It is not fair to the residents of these areas and of neighboring areas to leave them without the promised facilities.

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

Safety is a priority; I sympathize with residents who do not feel safe on the local roads as I do not feel safe walking with my family along parts of River Road. Stronger enforcement of limits and regulations could curb this trend. I would be in favor of working with residents to form solutions regarding our safety. The concerns of residents, no matter the area or scope, are my top concern. Implementation of safety measures will be a priority.

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