Ahead of the Oct. 15 election, The Observer asked candidates for Fraser Valley Regional Board District Electoral Area C questions pertaining to some of the biggest issues facing this part of the FVRD.
What are the two top priorities for the FVRD in the years ahead?
Mike Armstrong: The top priorities for the FVRD Area C are:
– To create a well planned Area C OCP that includes includes considerations for all neighbourhoods, including how they will be connected with each other, traffic flows, development locations, and services, to create a desirable and livable community. This must be done prior to implementing individual Neighbourhood Plans (NP), which could cause divisions between neighbours. For example, the in-progress Harrison Mills NP has received general feedback after five public meetings, that the additional 130 housing needs assessed should not be developed in their Harrison Mills neighbourhood, but that Lake Errock neighbourhood should take them. The Leq’amel, Errock, Sq’ewlets, Harrison Mills (Rivers Reach, Eagle Point, Sandpiper, Tapadera), Sts’ailes, and Weaver Creek neighbourhoods are within a couple of Km of each other, so lets plan where the proposed mutli-unit housing, retail, commercial, and services will be located together (and include the Hemlock Valley Resort Plan OCP).
– Transportation infrastructure improvements to accommodate the already approved Hemlock Valley OCP that expects six million visitors per year, and the future Area C plans. This should include widening the Lougheed Hwy to at least three lanes in sections for safe turns and accommodating farm/resource trucks. It must also include alternate emergency routes for communities as wildfires, train derailments, and floods become more prevalent. Bike/pedestrian paths could be built connecting all communities and double as emergency exits.
Wendy Bales (incumbent): Harrison Mills and Harrison Rise are both important for a consensus vote in the OCP. And Hemlock needs a community trail.
Mel Waardenburg: Planning for the inevitable changes coming our way with an increasing population while protecting the things we hold of value now. Our environment, our communities and people.
Flood protection is a concern for all of the FVRD, including this area. What are your ideas on how to make the area more flood-safe?
Armstrong: Dykes in Area C, that are in private hands, should be managed by the province/municipality/dyke boards to ensure capabilities are adjusted for future flood expectations, and kept open to the public as part of the path system.
Bales: Make better flood protection by not building on flood property or at least use better flood protection like road amenities like culverts or road assessments.
Waardenburg: First, we need to do a risk assessment of the waterways in the area and create a plan to mitigate the flood risk. We also need to ensure that all new developments are located and planned with strict attention to all hazards.
Explain how you will work with local governments to accomplish mutual goals.
Armstrong: Work collaboratively and push for funding, with all levels of government, and communicate openly with all stake holders, to ensure goals are met or adjusted as need be.
Bales: I will work with staff. UBCM gives good provincial coverage as FCM provides the federal as much as can be.
Waardenburg: Working together requires constant, consistent and clear communications. Listening, learning. Finding each others strengths and always getting the best people on the job.
Where do you see the FVRD in five years?
Armstrong: I hope to see FVRD Area C with great connecting trails, emergency routes, well planned new developments that consider all neighbourhoods input, and the infrastructure to accommodate the growth, before developments are completed. As a bonus, I would love to see the WestCoast Express expand with stops in Area C, as it loops south of the Fraser to connect to Chilliwack, and west. This would be billions cheaper than to create new Skytrain lines. By year 5, I would like Area C to be recognized as one of the best planned, environmental friendly, and most livable communities in Canada.
Bales: If elected, I will hope that they consider the will of the people in their considerations.
Waardenburg: The FVRD is constantly evolving, facing many challenges as it moves forward. We need responsible sustainable development while preserving the quality of life that we enjoy today.
See the extended Q&A online at www.agassizharrisonobserver.com.