Mike Morden

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?

To me this means that we are going to a much greater place than we are today, but we need to me mindful of our origins which means that we need to grow but respect our rural and historic character.

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 of homes is one step in the process. If we don’t have homes, we don’t get needed infrastructure and services like parks and transit. There certainly could have been better planning practices in years past, this is a fact, so from here on we need to do this is a responsible manner taking advantage of the infrastructure we have already paid for, and not wandering into new and very expensive areas for taxpayers and developers to service, but mindful of the commitment to our OCP.

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?

Developers pay for all the new infrastructure that is put in. Taxpayers pay the maintenance costs. The development we need should be more biased towards industry, commerce and jobs, that will balance the tax base. However residential development needs to continue in a responsible way so we have people here to support commerce and industry. We want the 60% of people that leave our community to stay here, and work here with decent paying jobs.

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?

Fill farming isn’t a good practice on farmland unless there is a benefit to the land that allows the land to become more fertile and productive. We need to ensure it is clear what the real objectives are of bringing fill into agricultural land and there needs to be consideration as to what the impacts are on flood plain as well as neighbouring properties. With respect to Alouette Valley, when the Silver Valley plan was assembled due consideration should have been given to how to get vehicles in and out, being there is no transit there. It is a 20 year plan that is only half way. The Abernethy corridor needs to be completed to 232 at minimum to ensure there is an efficient way for vehicles to travel East West. Until this happens people will find alternative quieter routes such as 132nd.

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.?.

Smart growth means to maximize the use of existing infrastructure. There is less burden to taxpayers, less future maintenance required and services are much easier for us to put in so we can maximize the benefits of park, schools and other infrastructure and can more easily get transit to serve there. Grant Hill which was approved before my time and has apparently been in the works for 12 years now, is an anomaly to me. People that buy lots out there will be each paying towards a private sewer plant worth a million in change and will pay each month for its servicing. Add the cost of the lot, and the cost of a home, as well as being located a long way away from anything, I don’t understand how the business model on this whole development can work. However there is no public money in here to build this or service it.

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?

In what I have seen in what comes to Council from staff (regardless of their level) is all in accordance with the OCP and is very clear in its recommendations when it isn’t within the OCP. There are times when the OCP is overridden, but these are mostly technical in nature and not what I would consider radical breaches. There is a case in my mind to do a minor OCP review in some areas.

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 to working within the OCP on a general basis. There are times when there is a case to look to the community needs and then I will vote accordingly. The Jackson Farm is the best example I can think of which the community benefit was very great, offset by densification and advanced timing on some development in our reserve urban area.
The ESA maps aren’t accurate in some areas so I don’t go by those. Unless the area has been groundtruthed then I cannot accept an aerial determination on the actual makeup of the land.
The Metro Vancouver 2040 plan has elected officials in other communities voting on ANY land use change in our community by population weighted vote, this can measurably effect our ability to create jobs, commerce and industry to support the projected population growth.

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 a member of the current council, the Pelton Lands, with appropriate offset to agriculture was something I did support. Its probably the most sensible location I can think of in our community to put in industry and commerce and have it located right on our major road network adjacent other markets. Conversion of these lands needed to be done with the right offsets, unfortunately under current legislation, only a couple of mechanisms are available to us. It isn’t possible to charge a one time tax for the removal and have the monies be assigned to other agricultural initiatives. These lands sits vacant, and have higher and better use, and would cost millions to revert the land back to farming.

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?

No. They are an advisory committee of council and in order to meet their mandate, can’t be decision makers.

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 support Dianne Watts’ leadership attributes of community input. I believe we hold the same in our available avenues for community input. However this has to be the whole community. We rarely get that input from the broad community, but mostly from self serving community groups that are at the discussion table with their mandates and not the mandate of the whole community. That in my opinion is what Council is for, to make decisions for the whole community having reviewed all the input from all sources.

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 will agree 100% that the staff can communicate better with everyone, not just community groups. This is all about good customer service. The reference to development effecting this one way or another is wrong in my mind. This is a cultural thing and needs to change, very similar to the banking industry that used to sit behind their desks offering limited hours, limited services and all on their terms. That industry has changed an enormous amount and now offers much better service hours, much better products and in a much more customer service driven manner. We need to do the same.

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?

For me this is about timing. We need to get the major connector routes for cars sorted out so that all the rural roads don’t get overburdened. Once this happens then I suspect the rural nature will return possibly with some measures taken and then there wont be near the demand to travel along these routes.
You suggest that the area could attract tourists, green business, create employment and increase tax revenues, I would like to see the business case for this. If you put these type of things in Alouette Valley, and we support you in making it difficult to get cars through there, how will your initiatives be supported if vehicle access is poor. Successful business ventures require good access.

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?

Advocate for proper East West connectivity. With an additional 18000 cars on our roads over the last 10 years, it is impossible to stop people from finding short cuts or what they believe are faster ways to get to where they are going. This is about money and proper planning, and as someone that clearly understands what all these challenges are, it isn’t an easy fix. No one wants their taxes raised to fund all the much needed infrastructure work, plus we have to partner with Translink on major road network improvements and all of these things take time and money, and few are willing to pay. So that’s why we prioritize things as best as we are able and assess all the needs based on that priority. If we start traffic calming neighbourhoods all over the place, and if we do it for one street, then others will insist on the same, then where will the traffic go? you can be assured that until we as a community have commerce, shopping, jobs etc 60% will continue to leave everyday and they are mostly in cars.

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?

Development in areas needs to have the appropriate services go in. All of current council have insisted on better for Silver Valley. The plan was approved many years ago and yet has no active park, school or decent roads in or out let alone transit serving there. Was it reasonable to expect these things to be there if you are buying a home there, yes, it’s a responsibility to build a complete community. 

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

Its is a priority for me to deal with volume of traffic and is consequences. It must be done appropriately bearing in mind when one change is made, it will impact something else. We are overrun with vehicles now, so decisions need to be made carefully here so we proceed in a balanced manner for all the community’s needs. I would definitely get enforcement stepped up in all issue areas, and in fact that is what we do now. When a situation comes to us jointly or severally, I/we request increased enforcement by RCMP or speed watch to cause a change in behavior. This is a reactive measure which is unfortunate and not the way things should be done when proper planning measures are taken, but it is a necessary measure when faced with the issue that we are here today in Maple Ridge.


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