Ahead of the Oct. 15 election, The Observer asked candidates five questions pertaining to some of the biggest issues facing Agassiz-Harrison.
What are your two highest priorities for the village?
John Allen (Mayor): My first challenge will be to deal with planning at the OCP and zoning bylaw level. What is happening at the moment is a shambles and unacceptable to anyone with any love for this community. Monster garages with suites on lot lines, ugly development crowding Hot Springs Road, illegal secondary suites in the R1, single family zone, flooding and traffic chaos. These are all symptoms of a sick planning regime.
The problem could be lousy bylaws or bad administration. Perhaps both. It has to stop. I have 40 years of experience dealing with zoning bylaws and OCP bylaws throughout the Fraser Valley. I know how to fix and properly administer Harrison’s bylaws . I will do so promptly in conjunction with elected councillors. My second priority is to mitigate the interface forest fire hazard. Prevention and good response planning will be followed by real progress on the Northern evacuation route. Handing this off to Kent hasn’t worked. We need to take control and get it done. Instead of more committee meetings and consultants, we’ll send a machine (probably an excavator) down the old forestry road through Sasquatch Park, the route I’ve been advocating for about 30 years. We’ll then see what’s needed to open it up for northward evacuation access to Hwy #7. Maybe not much, as the road bed is still intact, just overgrown.
John Buckley (Council): Sustainability and accessibility.
1. Development has to be managed so the villages growth systems and infrastructure can maintain both the residents and the tourists who visit our beautiful village. As our population ages it is important to ensure that all public spaces remain accessible and usable for all residents.
Accessibility is also important for tourism, as there is a clear trend to ensuring destinations can be accessed by all.
To that end, I support the new visitor information centre which is striving to obtain the Rick Hansen Gold Standard of accessibility.
2. Support local businesses. It’s because of them that our property taxes remain significantly lower than otherwise might be. As an official resort community, we receive provincial government resort municipality initiative (RMI) funds which amount to millions of dollars, paying for infrastructure and amenities along the waterfront and throughout our village that we could otherwise not afford.
Leo Facio (Council, incumbent Mayor): My two highest priorities for the village are to be sustainable, also have more communication with the public and work on the emergency route.
Leslie Ghezesan (Council): To check where our tax money vanished as from 2018 went up $200 to $1,200 put this money to work for us.
Allan Jackson (Council): To ensure the Village remains economically sustainable. To ensure the right and concerns of the taxpayers are protected and heard.
Samantha Piper (Mayor, incumbent Council): I still have a lot of work I wish to continue with Council. The two highest priorities initially are a Service Capacity Review (SCR) and the second is Relationship Building. An SCR will take a deep dive into sustainable service delivery. The scope of works will include a look inward and outward of the municipality’s procedures and overall framework; the purpose and goal will be to establish sustainable efficiencies, long-term strategies, community needs, and future service planning for the betterment of the community as a whole. The SCR process will require time.
If developed systematically, it will ensure a comprehensive review is generated, resulting in purpose-driven governance, municipal efficiencies, and overall community well-being. Relationship building is critically important. Council not only represents the village while at the council table but also while advocating for the village in other settings. Relationships and partnerships are what will continue to move our community forward. Joint-effort projects; regional initiatives; community to community resourcefulness; government to government ingenuity. By working collaboratively, much more can be achieved with the outcome of mutual benefits.
Michie Vidal (incumbent Council): 1. Housing needs are evolving. We are experiencing rapid growth, changing demographics and council must adapt. New residents and younger families re-vitalize our community and we must listen to their needs. Many of our seniors who have called Harrison home for many years are now considering downsizing and want to remain close to family and friends. We must find solutions and provide attainable housing for all ages. This can include incentives in partnership with programs provided by provincial and federal governments. We must continue to enhance our community where residents, businesses and visitors are provided with housing, amenities, infrastructure and programs to ensure a vibrant and thriving village.
2. We must continue to support the recommendations in our adopted Active Transportation Plan, Lagoon Master Plan, Parking Master Plan and our future Urban Forest Master Plan. These provide the justification when grant applications are submitted, and if awarded, provide upgrades and additions for the benefit of our community as a whole. Council has kept property taxes to modest increases. Grants provide the needed funding to ensure we have an active and safe community without the burden of substantial tax increases.
Ed Wood (Mayor): Build community spirit. Form committees and allow informal conversations by the public in village business, engage, listen, learn, and build. Quality of privacy in our homes. Ensure the draft OCP that allows for duplexes and coach houses to be built on presently zoned single home lots is not permitted.
Read the full Q&A session online at www.agassizharrisonobserver.com.
Election 2022Harrison Hot Springs