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 for me means a tree with a strong foundation, deeper roots nurturing healthy growth to be enjoyed by future generations. I believe this is practiced in day to day decisions.
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?
For those already living in a neighborhood that is evolving there is no doubt a disruption, but for those NEW residents presumably it is an improvement in the quality of life, otherwise, they would not be moving in to the homes and neighbourhoods.
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?
I disagree with your preamble to this question, the financial statements and the 5 year plan do breakout all the additional costs mentioned except schools, which is with the Ministry of Education and the School District, however, over 50% of the annual taxes or fee for services are collected for other agencies with the School District realizing the majority. Developers have to pay a fee (School Acquisition Fee) per unit to the School District for future school infrastructure. This fee varies on density but the average is roughly $1,000.00 per unit.
All developments pay for their infrastructure based on the standards set out in district bylaws and engineering standard, this includes sewer lines, water lines, storm sewer, curbs, gutters, paving, gas, etc. Where services have to be extended they are required to pay for the extensions. In addition, developments are required to pay a per unit development cost charge. (D.C.C.’s) and a 5% cash in lieu of park or a 5% park dedication. We are gaining a substantial amount of conservation, green space through our stricter set back requirements on creeks.
As legislated D.C.C.’s can only be collected for certain community or neighborhood needs or upgrades identified in the 5 year capital plan. Again depending on density these fees range from roughly $7,000 to $18,000 per unit, a single family home pays the highest.
There have been occasions where a sewer line or other infrastructures is required for an area, however, there is again, through legislation methods which can be used to collect these costs back such as a specified additional D.C.C. fee. After 1 year the new infrastructure, providing there are no deficiencies is handed over to the District.
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?
Again, contrary to your preamble, where possible staff and council do try to determine effects on surrounding areas. In respect to the specific of “fill farming” there is a soil deposit bylaw in Maple Ridge, however, there are other government agencies and legislative rights such as the Right To Farm Act and The Agricultural Land Reserve Act, Ministry of Environment and more that can supersede or override our legislated powers. The question is how much responsibility should the District assume for senior levels of government?
This council has demonstrated that they do not support this kind of activity by denying a recent application in Whonnock. Further to this, there are likely cases where filling may make sense that are in line with the recommendations of the Agricultural Advisory committee, particularly for soil enhancements for production.
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.?.
In respect to your preamble again – The O.C.P. does allow for a variety of housing and zoning types transitioning from high density to low. There is a general need to remove some trees for roads, home sites and septic field areas. There are passed cases where clear cutting has taken place and the most recent Grant Hill application is a bare land strata, whereby the common area accounts for part of the lot area. It also added substantially more land to the municipal forest reserve. The overall lots are more clustered and smaller but the lots and common area add up to 1 acre.
Smart Growth is a collection of urban design criteria that mixes and integrates a variety of densities and land uses into a pedestrian friendly scale of form and character where shops and services are no greater than a 10 minute walk away. Streets are scaled in a preferred grid pattern and use a variety of traffic calming devices to discourage predominate automobile use and replace it with other modes of transportation.
I believe our own Downtown Core Plan is a prime example of these principles. We are just starting to see this plan along with the incentives offered taking hold. Since January of 2011, we have had a total of $22 million of construction value, building permits issued with several other properties in the approval stage. Major project at Dewdney to Brown Avenue from 224th to 223rd Street is in its application phase and received first reading November 8, 2011. It is a collection of 5 residential Towers over podiums of commercial and office space.
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?
I do believe that the O.C.P. has been integrated into the policies, budgets, business plans or development negotiations at the senior staff level, not just your key selected points but all policies, goals and objectives as well as bylaws and development standards.
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 a councillor, my decisions are guided by the 4 selected items as well as the balance of the rules and regulations of the local Government Act, the Community Charter, the Right to Farm Act, etc. I will remind you that the Right to Farm Act can in actual fact over ride some of the O.C.P., Metro Vancouver Plan and Environmentally sensitive areas plans. So yes, I do use these and many others in my decision making and it is predicated on individual scenarios and how it fits the community needs.
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?
As an incumbent councillor, I supported forwarding the Pelton exclusion application to the commission, I did not say that I necessarily supported their plan. If you believe in Smart Growth you would realize that jobs are critical to supporting all other aspects. There was supporting infrastructure, etc that went along with their plan. My criticism was it was not broad enough in Green Building Technology and did not have the necessary critical mass of jobs for the size of area. Being proposed at present industrial employees on average 4-5 people per acre and retail/commercial 16.5 people per acre, at minimum our goal should be at least 30 people per acre employed.
Perhaps a referendum would be a good idea for items like this. Would you accept the outcome if it didn’t go your way? would you look at all the benefits to the entire community?
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?
As one of the incumbent councillors that voted for the formation of the Agricultural Advisory Committee and as Chairman of the Rural Plan Committee in 1997 that recommended such a committee it was overdue. There certainly would be merit in this and it could definitely be reviewed since I believe they are still working on other parts of their mandate. I believe there are lots of other things that could be done in respect to moving forward and actually seeing year round food production. Once again, wise use of the land to really meet the needs of the community long term.
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 is a genuine effort to communicate with the community. Meetings are open, there are a host of committees, numerous open forums, and our meetings are open. For at least a decade, there has been a continuing effort for meaningful open communications in a world that has changed substantially in electronic communications in that same decade. There are times that for whatever reason an email or letter has not been answered or perhaps the answer was not what the person wanted to hear which adds to time this whole issue of poor communication. Other times, people expect us to drop everything else and deal with their problem or issue, in some cases to change our plans and budgets. There are of course sometimes good reasons to do this but most of the time we try to incorporate the ideas into business planning cycles, except in the case of emergencies.
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 believe the single largest issue is what forms of communication should be used. Perhaps there are ways in which your organizations could help since especially as an incumbent I see the frustration from time to time especially where all of us are really trying but for some it is wasn’t done yesterday it’s not good enough, or if you don’t give me the answer I want it’s not good enough. Of course, there are some individuals that are experts in a field because they researched it on the internet so their point is correct. I have seen absolutely disrespectful treatment of staff on occasion and yet they carry on and try to resolve a person’s issue.
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?
This initiative is very good and the incumbent council has supported moving it forward to workshop on November 7th, 2011 and I would encourage the Association to view the report. Through Parks and Leisure Services there was over $400,000 of works completed in the North Alouette River Greenway. Once again, budgets and planning has to be done in sequence overtime. There are some great ideas and neighbourhood solutions that surface and can be very helpful, can they all be incorporated perhaps yes, can they be done today perhaps not.
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?
It has been recognized that these areas have been impacted along with many others. This council has instructed staff to review our traffic calming policies and in particular the issue of using speed bumps or as the engineers call them “vertical deflectors”. As you are aware we have spent over 5 million dollars on other improvements in these identified areas in this term. I believe there are solutions that will evolve but they may not happen overnight, there are over 300 kilometers of local roads and 150 kilometers of collector roads and highways in the District. Once again there are some great ideas that can evolve through community/neighbourhood input.
I believe most of the issues are on driver inattention or aggression but we also realize we can’t have our R.C.M.P. member on every corner. We continue to work with our partners to address issues but solving one problem sometimes leads to another and it may have to cycle through a budget process again.
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?
The concept of O.C.P.’s was to give some reasonable assurance that fundamental community services were recognized, the primary was schools, so that The Provincial Government could budget for them based on density and new growth areas. Suffice it to say that they have not lived up to their own legislation despite the fact they collect fees on each new unit built. They have also not come to the table to purchase sites available. This council has even offered to buy sites in conjunction with our parks purchasing policies on the simple premise that the School District or Ministry buy them at our cost plus cover our holding costs. We have no commitment from either.
A council policy that has been in existence for many years is that development pays for their own infrastructure including off site extensions. Some infrastructure is installed by the district but only once sufficient funds are collected through D.C.C.’s The bridge over the South Alouette is a prime example of policies colliding and costs escalating.
The evolution of the Silver Valley neighborhood plan identified the need for greater environmental setbacks and rules and regulations around water courses. Many of these were and have been implemented and in respecting the neighborhood and environmental groups wishes the cost of the bridge escalated from 5 million dollars in the late 1990’s to over 20 million dollars in the last 3 years. The major cost is not inflation but our own environmental policies. I respect these policies as do the balance of council but I guess it is also a case of be careful what you wish for. There are other agencies involved in the bridge as well, Ministry of Highways, connecting 240th to Lougheed , Translink connecting and completing Abernathy to at least 240th.
In respect to the issue of shops and services, the plan has not been altered in respect of land use designations but these lands are owned by individuals and it is up to them to decide when it would be economically feasible to develop them as intended. There are some pieces that I feel are ready and I have personally tried to encourage the land owner(‘s) to bring forward a plan.
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 due respect to this Association, I believe the answer to the River Road Associations question has some parallels and similar solutions. I will let this answer stand for your question as well except that each neighbourhood or street in this case is unique and there is certainly merit in working with neighbour, staff and council to find solutions.
The presentation made by the association to council Nov 8th 2011 was great and had some great ideas which I hope I will have the opportunity to explore with staff in the next term. There was a lot of thought and good dialogue that is helpful to council and the broader community.
I wish to thank the associations for the questions. I hope I have demonstrated that, municipal governance is not simple, but that I and my colleagues certainly do listen not just to you but the entire community. I am grateful to serve the community as I have done, and I hope that I can continue to serve it for another term with your support. I firmly believe that we all want the best for our streets, our neighborhood and community, but most of all we want the best for our future generations in an uncertain world.