Corisa Bell

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?

I see the roots of Maple Ridge as the small town feeling of community. The type of community where people come together to talk, laugh, work and help each other out when needed. My family has family roots in Haney dating back six generations and these are the stories I used to hear as a child. As we attempt to reach greater heights as a city it is important that we honor our roots and our heritage and keep the small town spirit at the heart of our community; it’s the people that will ultimately move our town forward. Unfortunately I don’t believe this motto is reflected in day-to-day decisions at all. “Deeper Pockets, Greater Sprawl” would be a slogan more reflective of current day-to-day 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 should improve the quality of our life, but to date it has, and is continuing to degrade our quality of life instead. All of our suburb communities are drastically underserviced lacking even simple safety measures like sidewalks and streetlights let alone transit and schools. Before moving to Silver Valley we lived in Albion where my eldest daughter attended Albion Elementary. The school was over capacity then and they are still continuing to develop and build. It seems like realtors sell homes in these areas boasting that the area is “booming” and that services are on their way. People move into their new homes only to find services associated with tomorrow never arrive. This same thing happened when we moved to our new neighborhood in Silver Valley, as promises that were made have become “not viable options.” At some point in our history our city became a bedroom community for Vancouver proposing cheaper land and more affordable housing. The realtors and developers took over our community as a housing playground and to date we have not been able to change to a new paradigm needed to make Maple Ridge a self-sufficient city that properly takes care of its residents.

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?

Not only does our current rate of development not make economic sense, it has created an economy that can’t sustain itself and will ultimately collapse. Each development costs taxpayers an exponentially greater cost year after year. The only way to pay for these additional costs is to build more houses to balance the previous years budget. We are running in a cycle that will no longer be viable when as citizens we become unable to pay the property tax increases. What’s worse is that as taxpayers we are subsidizing new underserviced areas while remaining underserviced ourselves. As development continues, we fall further and further behind in all areas of our city. I would like to see a detailed report created by an independent entity to detail exactly what these developments are costing taxpayers on a year after year basis. I have a gut feeling that property tax and spending are being highly misrepresented and I would also like to see an independent audit done. Since attracting developers to our area is not an issue, I believe that the developer should have to pay for the cost of new development infrastructure as well as contribute to the connection of that infrastructure to the existing. I would like to see a development plan created outlining very specific requirements including but not limited to sidewalks, streetlights and parks, and put the onus on them to fit into our community.

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?

Anyone who says development planning is being handled well in our city is likely to be a realtor, developer, incumbent, or all of the above. Fill-farming is not an appropriate practice on farmland and is further evidence of a city that is degrading itself for the purpose of residential development.

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.?.

The operative word for me in “Smart Growth” is “smart,” not “growth.” Smart growth to me means first and foremost supporting our existing communities and ensuring that new development conforms to our city rather than expecting the city to conform to the development. Smart growth should incorporate more, not less transportation choices, encourage livability and safety, promote affordable housing, and place a high value on community through halls, parks and local shopping. It should also encourage environmentally friendly practices and maintain green space. I see smart growth as creating communities within a community while creating a strong sense of attachment and interdependence to the city as a whole.

While many cities have begun to implement Smart Growth strategies I’m not aware of any city that I feel is doing an exemplary job, though I commend the efforts of places like those in Colorado. I believe that Maple Ridge, with its already distinctive pockets of communities, has the opportunity to be a world leader in Smart Growth if the right local candidate leaders were in place.

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 I don’t. It feels more like the OCP was put in place so that it can be amended and used to justify decisions that are not in the best interest of the community as a whole.

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?

Absolutely. Maple Ridge can and should build within these guidelines.

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?

No I don’t support the exclusion of the Pelton farm from the ALR. Nor do I support a mayor having an influence over such decisions after the Pelton family donated $3500 to his election campaign. I absolutely want to see referendums used more often in the form of additional questions on election ballots.

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?

Yes, council should unquestionably benefit from the expertise of the AAC.

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 am very disappointed in the districts exclusion of citizens in their decision-making. In fact, there are times where the council is not even included in initial decision-making (see http://www.mapleridgenews.com/news/133497853.html for example). I’ve spoken to the businesses on 224th and not a single person said they were consulted about the tearing up and the restructuring of the street. They now report that business is worse as there is less parking, and one reported a loss of $40,000 as a result. In Thornhill and Whonnock the wells are being closed and a Kiosk created without consultation. In Albion the Hall was demolished and citizens tell me the proposed consultation with them was a façade. Lack of consultation with the public is a pandemic over our entire city. The best type of decision-making is one that includes the people the decisions affect so that they believe and contribute to the vision. Dianne Watts leadership is effective. Our mayor could stand to learn a great deal from her.

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?

Having a background in business I have to believe the problem is in the leadership. It is the job of a leader to set forth the expectations of the staff and to ensure those expectations are met. It feels like the leadership of the city sets an exclusive tone where all decisions are made and kept at city hall and that the citizens are to be kept on the outside. The incumbents will tell us that city hall is open and transparent, but the voices of citizens will tell you story after story about the frustrations of trying to deal with city hall and have anyone take them seriously. We are forunate to be a city filled with people who are amazingly passionate, involved, and willing to contribute. The District not utilizing these citizens is nothing short of tragic for our community. We need a leader as mayor, and a group of leaders on council, who set the tone for the city instead of catering to interest groups for reelection. From there, responsible development, involvement of the community, and improved relations with the public would begin to fall into place.

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. Eco-tourism I believe should and will have a prominent place in Maple Ridge’s future. I want eco-tourism encouraged and would like to see a future marketing campaign aimed at its promotion.

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?

With Dewdney and Lougheed frequently congested, these side roads have become increasingly popular and will only become more busy as the population grows. First and foremost, I think such routes should have sidewalks to provide some protection from the traffic. While I understand budget constraints, sidewalks on busy roads are not a luxury. Decreasing speed limits won’t have much impact as people are typically travelling beyond those limits already. Enforcement by traffic cops is only a temporary measure. The logical solution as I see it is to implement speed bumps and/or chicanes.

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?

When we began building our home here in Silver Valley in 2008 we were told a road through to 240th st was planned. When we later phoned to find out more information from the city we were told that there had been previous talk but no plans. Pushing further, we found that the road would require significant funding from the provincial government and as a result wouldn’t happen. The road past wildplay is extremely dangerous without room for walking let alone a sidewalk, and I’ve seen one boy hit on his bike already. Accidents are semi-frequent and cause amazing delays due to the lack of alternate routes. We have to drive into town to shop when we could have commercial properties around the Black Sheep and/or on the lot by Fern and Balsalm. More concerning than shops however, is the school. With development pushing further North and south along 232nd, we are at risk of creating another Albion from Yennadon by overpopulating. Transit is another issue as it runs infrequently and doesn’t go past Maple Ridge Park. Not only is this an issue in and of itself, but lack of street lights and sidewalks from the transit to the houses makes walking to and from the bus stop dangerous. Like so many areas of Maple Ridge, services in Silver Valley are very lacking and yet development continues. Our city keeps talking about needing “numbers” in the area before services can be justified. They seem to have it backwards. When you build the services: transit, recreational facilities, shops, schools, etc., people will build and move around those services. It feels like our city is content to build without services to subsidize our tax base. Does it make sense to continue pushing this development? Of course it doesn’t.

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 challenge council or anyone who says sidewalks aren’t needed or affordable to take their children and/or grandchildren and watch them walk up and down these roads by themselves. I’ve spoken to members of the community in this area who are convinced that its only a matter of time before the traffic is going to result in a child’s death. They have tried for two years to get sidewalks and the best they received was a white line that people then park on top of forcing the children to go into the middle of high traffic areas to walk around. At the mayoral debate a woman spoke about the similar problem in Albion on 104th street where kids were walking to SRT without a sidewalk. She said they had made several attempts to get council to listen and put in a sidewalk, and said her brothers friend was later struck on that very road. We need to slow down and build responsibly, take care of our current neighborhoods before expanding, and move out of the paradigm that we are a residential community that exists as a bedroom community to other cities. We can’t continue down this path and instead must become self-sufficient with less focus on residential development. It’s really a simple, yet crucial concept. The difficulty is in replacing the decades of entrenched developer/realtor influence with people willing to fight for change.
I volunteered 3500 or more hours of my life to the Fight HST campaign over the last two years. As I own a corporation, the business benefits and the personal costs from HST roughly balanced out, meaning the HST didn’t impact me much if at all. I took up the cause because I’m tired of self-serving governments and I want to remind governments that they work for the people. I don’t see that here in Maple Ridge, and that’s exactly why I chose to take up this fight. I hope that you will take the time to recognize my knowledge, passion, and genuine motives, and stand behind me and allow me to do so as a member of council.

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