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?
I believe the motto is something the district strives for but does not necessarily achieve. The continual movement beyond the urban boundary spreads the city further out and creates a situation where the roots must spread further instead of going deeper. Greater Heights could be interpreted as the push towards densification of the downtown core. Let’s not forget though that we have had essentially the same council for the last nine years and it has only been the last year and half that there has been a push to really develop the downtown. The proof is in the numerous developments that are well underway and outside of the downtown core.
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 can absolutely improve the quality of life of residents of Maple Ridge. It can be argued though that the direction of development for the past three to nine years has not been to the benefit of Maple Ridge residents as a whole. Balanced development that brings jobs, shopping opportunities, and contributes to an equal tax base can only benefit the residents. Unfortunately I don’t think we as citizens have actually seen this
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?
That’s a quite a few questions. I’ll summarize by saying smart development that works with existing infrastructure makes good economic sense. Business plans are very important but they need to be complete out and honest. By honest I mean each line item needs to be clearly outlined so tax payers understand what things cost and how property taxes will be able to cover these costs. With the exception of some of the charges currently being waived for downtown development, most developers pay for the infrastructure of their developments. The issue though is what level of infrastructure do they cover. Developers should have to do the maximum, as opposed to the current minimum when it comes to infrastructure around their developments. Sidewalks that are fully accessible, street lighting using the latest technology etc should be minimum requirements. I do not agree with subsidizing developers and have made this clear on my website: http://www.electgrover.com . It is insane that developers can sit on property for years and not provide a sidewalk. This is a big issue in the downtown core where large empty lots have no sidewalks or lighting. To be clear, I am for development but I will not support land speculation subsidized by taxpayers.
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 and the planning department needs to be held accountable for this. There is well known case that city hall has gone out of their way to ignore around back fill. It is known that an individual is creating berms that create a flooding hazard for all the properties around his and yet the city has yet to act in a conclusive and long term manner.
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.?.
Newport village is the best local example. Densification mixed with working and shopping opportunities.
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 OCP is probably the most ignored document that is consistently referenced. What citizens need to understand is that there is nothing official about the official community plan. There is no enforcement mechanism for citizens other than to show up countless times at city hall and protest the manner in which the OCP is being ignored. Until the city or the province mandate the OCP as a document that must be followed and adhered to it will never achieve its stated purpose.
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?
As I have said on my website http://www.electgrover.com I will be taking a holistic approach to decision making. This would include the above mentioned guides.
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?
Yes I did and still do support the Pelton plan. This city is desperate for local jobs and I believe if city hall had been more open about the merits of the Pelton plan it could have succeeded. Look at what is not going to happen. In another question there is concern about large trucks through residential areas. Well guess what’s going to happen when the industrial area on 256th st gets developed. The city could have put a very viable alternative at the foot of the golden ears bridge, got some substantial upgrades to the area and contributed to a number of green initiatives. Instead citizens get more fallow land.
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?
Only if it meant empowering all committees in the same manner and citizens of Maple Ridge understood what it meant to grant committees these powers.
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?
One of the main reasons I am running is due to the poor relationship city hall has with the citizens of Maple Ridge. I’ve already been to all candidates meetings where incumbents wax on about awards and how open city hall is. If that is the case then why did 28 people run to replace the current council? Communication only happens when enough citizens show up at council and demand answers. In these cases we have highly paid staff ignoring issues that citizens are trying to get addressed on their own time and dollar. We may have elected officials at city hall but it can be argued that we don’t have leaders. I would be a leader that listens and I feel my record as a small business owner in Maple Ridge for over twenty years proves I listen to my customers. I will bring that same level of courtesy to citizens who I would be serving as a member of council.
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?
City hall is closer to group of fiefdoms that operate independently of one another and come together to face a common threat – such as citizen initiatives. I am a big believer in crowd sourcing for solutions and believe that the people who know what is best for their neighborhood are the ones that live there. I am proud of the work I did along with other members of the senior’s society to improve traffic safety. The fact that it took us around a year to get this much needed improvement tells me that staff is not taking citizens input seriously enough. To improve staff to community relations I would make it clear to Jim Rule (CAO) that he needs to work with his staff so that they understand they are here to serve the citizens of the city, not the other way around.
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?
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 already have experience getting traffic calming devices into the city budget http://www.mapleridgenews.com/news/132568788.html and would gladly work with community groups to input safer traffic practices
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?
No it does not and I would not be supporting development that does not mesh with existing infrastructure. In regards to the one road issue at Silver Valley, it is time to hold accountable staff and the developer, as well as the council members that voted this development through without finishing the job.
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 already have experience getting traffic calming devices into the city budget http://www.mapleridgenews.com/news/132568788.html and would gladly work with community groups to input safer traffic practices.