I am not running because of a particular issue or concern. I am running because I believe in public service and giving back to my community. As issues are raised throughout the campaign I will record my thoughts here for consideration by all voters.
What Skills Would I bring to the Table if Elected?
I believe that I have a good understanding of many of the issues facing Colwood and will approach the search for solutions with an open but demanding mind. I will read and understand technical reports, challenge assumptions and be frugal with taxpayers money. I recognize that I am not an expert in many of the subjects that will come up to the council table, but will not be afraid to seek necessary clarification and advice on all issues. My votes will be cast based on what I believe to best for Colwood citizens, not based on what is the easiest or most convenient position. I will accept responsibility for my thoughts and actions.
Do I support an Arts Centre in the Westshore?
Of course! An Arts Centre would be a wonderful addition to our community and I would certainly attend performances if an Arts Centre were built. I read the Schlick Shiver report prepared for the Arts Council a few years ago and have some obvious concerns. The report seems to be tailored to Colwood but the only possible ( in my opinion) way to achieve a Centre of the magnitude proposed is through the combined efforts of all Westshore Municipalities. Even if that occurred, the $35 million price tag( without land) is now several years old and needs to be updated.
A serious concern is that the initiative relies upon a survey, done as part of an MBA program, of only 380 responses. It is hard to defend this as necessarily representative of 60,000 people, so a better survey will be required to accurately assess support.
The concept of adding a coffee shop and gallery to offset operational costs is a double edged sword. If the Arts Centre is in a location to attract enough traffic to make these businesses viable, the value of the land is more than if a location was selected based solely on the needs of the Arts Centre.
If elected... What would I do to help?
Whether elected or not, I would encourage the Arts Centre Society to get support from all Westshore municipalities and determine the appropriate sites and funding formula. Realistically a project like this will require significant grants from senior levels of government and rock solid support from all local municipalities and residents, likely through a larger, detailed survey. From my experience, achieving significant local financing from a fundraising campaign will be challenging.
What would you do to alleviate the housing crisis for everyone, in particular seniors and young people starting out?
No single measure will solve the housing crisis, however I think that steps should be taken in Colwood to address the issue of over housing or as it is sometimes called empty bedroom syndrome. This refers to underutilization of older homes as family homes become used by only a couple or even a single occupant after the kids leave home. Colwood has many large homes on large lots that could be better utilized. Now some people wish to stay in their homes because they have an affinity for a garden or a workshop, but many would downsize if a suitable neighbourhood location was available. I believe Colwood should encourage small multi family projects in existing neighbourhoods and refreshing of older homes to make them suitable for younger and larger families, perhaps even with suites, to better utilize existing schools, parks etc.
How would you go about improving the transportation/traffic problems we face living here?
Here are some practical steps that I would hope council would undertake within their mandate to improve transportation options. Firstly encourage walking by constructing more sidewalks to get safely to school, to get to bus stops and to access local commercial sites. They would also be used for exercise and enjoyment. Secondly enhance bike lanes and bike paths as a viable commuting option and for exercise and enjoyment, and finally seek a regional study on converting the E&N into a one way bus lane that would enable commuter busses to bypass the highway for a few hours in the morning and to return for a few hours in the evening. This would allow continued service into the downtown in the morning and throughout the community in the evening to prevent unnecessary transfers. The one way option would reduce congestion on the Highway during peak periods when congestion is at its worst.
To expand on my thoughts on the E&N...
I frankly believe that options such as Seabus type operation or trains are hugely expensive and probably won’t make sufficient difference to the problem. If a train or a Seabus took 200 passengers on a round trip of -say- an hour, that is 200 passengers off of the road - perhaps 200 vehicles. Couple that with the land requirements for terminals, the need to get to and from the starting and ending points and you have a very expensive system that doesn’t do much and isn’t very convenient. Let’s face it, If John Horgan, premier of the province who deals with the Colwood Crawl on a daily basis says that a train isn’t a viable option, maybe we should all accept that and look for more practical solutions.
The problem that we are trying to solve, I believe, is congestion on the roads in the morning commute going into Victoria and the evening commute coming out of Victoria.Creating a one way bus route along the E&N would be relatively inexpensive. For some unfathomable reason when the bike trail was built rail signal crossings were installed across every intersection - on a line that hasn’t seen a train in ten years and frankly isn’t ever likely to. However, this investment that has already been made, could be put to good use if the tracks were removed and busses were to utilize the right of way. These busses could be an expansion of existing bus system, with pickup and drop offs all over the Westshore, hop on to the E&N and then hop off at Esquimalt Road and then continue on to various stops throughout downtown Victoria. The buses could then return to the Westshore on the highway, against the flow of traffic and resume their regular routes. In the evening this process could be reversed. Drop offs and pick ups at CFB Esquimalt and Naden would be seamless.
This solution, in my opinion, practically and cost effectively utilizes existing infrastructure rather than aims to copy hugely expensive infrastructure from much larger and denser cities. Let’s work with what we have rather than “ shoot for the moon’ and fail.
What are your thoughts on the lack of maintenance on the cul-de-sac circle on Karger Terrace?
Although I haven’t specifically inspected the Karger Terrace issue, I have regrettably heard similar issues as I visit doorsteps. Obviously everything we own we need to maintain, whether personally or as a City. And it is concerning to me to hear that people have registered complaints or concerns with the City and have not felt that they have been listened to or had their complaints addressed. Of course in a City such as Colwood there are going to be complaints from residents, it would be foolish to think otherwise. However ignoring complaints and hoping that they go away is not acceptable. I suggested that a complaints register be kept. Everyone who has a complaint gets a number, that number is recorded and actions taken monitored. The complainant, upon receipt can be forwarded to the appropriate person or department and whatever steps that are taken can be recorded against the complaint number until such time as it is resolved. Any follow up by the complainant or senior staff or politicians can clearly see when the complaint was made, by whom, and what steps have been taken. In cases where action is insufficient, inappropriate or non-existent management would be tasked to follow up.
What changes would I make to the OCP?
The OCP is a very long and detailed document. It is just recently completed after a lot of work. It is not perfect, but I am prepared to give it a chance and work with it as it is rather than start making significant changes before the ink is even dry. However I am very concerned that the amount of detail and breadth of issues that it covers may make conforming to the plan exactly virtually impossible. This don’t need to be an issue, City staff, committees and Council can review applications for general conformance to the goals and intent of the plan and agree - or not, that the application is in general conformance and has valid reasons for any differences between it and the plan. The other alternative is that every divergence of an application to the plan, whether major or minor in scope, could trigger a development permit or development variance application, possibly descending into a newer ending quagmire of applications, reviews , hearings etc. that would inevitably stall any and all development.
Questions related to development in general:
I am neutral on development. Supportive of good development and not interested in poor or marginal development. I accept that Colwood should accept it’s share of regional growth which the OCP says will be an increase of approximately 3500 dwellings by 2038. With already approved plans for Royal Bay, Olympic View, Ocean Grove ( Two Waters) and Colwood Corners the City may have sufficient development plans on the books to meet that target already. If not the amount of new residential development proposals per year required to meet the goal will be limited - assuming the above mentioned developments continue as currently projected. Many of the candidates spoke about, and I agree, the desirability of attracting more business and employment growth to Colwood.
I closed my thoughts last night by saying that I believed I would be able to watch expenditures and ask tough questions when necessary. Time was limited and it may not have been the best forum to give a detailed example but let me try here.
The City recently received two reports on the waterfront and the Ocean Boulevard Lift Station. Both excellent , well written reports by knowledgeable and competent firms. The Coastline Erosion Study by nhc consultants stated that the Peninsula is resilient to small levels of sea level rise ( less than 30 cm).
The kwl engineering report established locations to place the Ocean Boulevard lift station to protect it from sea level rise to the year 2100 or 2200, storm surges, high tides and tsunamis. An excellent document and well thought out response to the question of where a future location of the lift station should be.
The existing station is considered to to have a design life to the year 2065.
The Council elected to consider adding $600,000 to next years budget to undertake beach replenishment works fronting the lift station with an expected life of about 10 years after which the sand would be washed down the beach and further replenishment would be required.
Council also voted to start the process to tender the lift station relocation for construction in 2020.
There are so many questions that this raises.
Firstly - Where is the report that determines when the lift station needs to be relocated - we have an excellent report on where to move it to but why now? What steps can we take to extend the life out to closer to its expected life? Doesn’t seem to be urgent based on the coastline report? Sea level rise appears to be predicted as approximately one centimetre per year. Maybe there are some steps that could be taken in the rare event that a king tide coincides with a large storm and expected storm surge? Yes a tsunami at high tide may impact the station - but how much warning would we have? Again are there mitigative measures that could be taken to protect or minimize damage to the station if a tsunami was approaching.
And why does Council consider both beach replenishment and relocation at the same time? Surely this is an either-or decision?
My Scottish mother would roll over in her grave at the thought of spending $2 million or more to relocate a lift station with many years of life left. Let’s be extremely careful before we commit public funds prematurely on endeavours such as this.
My thoughts on high density in existing neighbourhoods:
This is very relevant as we move forward in Colwood. The reality is that any any property owner is free to decide what could be built on their property and bring forward an application to the City. The job of Council is to determine what should be built and I doubt very much that any of the candidates are going to argue in favour of high density on existing neighbourhoods. I have stated before that with existing development proposals we probably are very close to meeting our target for number of new housing units that the the OCP suggested would be our share of the regional growth. We also have a lot of land suitable for development around Colwood Corners and along the Colwood strip ( no need to be car lots forever).
What is your view on the sustainability of Colwood’s tax base?
The answer to this question may really separate some of the candidates, as we can all create our own definition of sustainability. There will always be a tax base as long as there is a Colwood so of course the tax base is sustainable - the issue is whether or not its affordable and I would argue that taxes are reaching the level of being unaffordable for some. Some of the candidates may take the easy route and hope for more business and commercial development ( which I support but recognize will take some time), perhaps even rampant residential development ( which I do not support).
Firstly let me start by confessing that I don’t know what our tax base is - a figure of 93% residential has been floated but that is disingenuous. The city also must also be in receipt of grants in lieu of taxes from senior governments, federally for CFB Esquimalt, Fort Rodd Hill, the Royal Roads lands etc., provincially for Royal Roads University. All these are integral parts of our community, we love to have them and appreciate their contribution but they do force costs on to the City which need to be recovered. I do not at this time know if the grants in lieu are raising proportionally to the residential taxes but frankly- they better be.
My push is to be very frugal with the taxes that we currently collect, recognizing that there is no will in the community for massive changes and that if changes do occur they will be gradual and taxes received will be some time in the future. Let’s start tightening our belt today and the savings will occur year after year whether or not any increase in the tax base occurs.
I have been called out on a statement that I had made in a couple of places that placing a toll on single occupant vehicles during periods of congestion:
I had better explain myself. Firstly neither I nor Colwood Council can put a toll or tax on users of the Island Highway or elsewhere. Yet no one can deny the problem of congestion. As I walked Spoke Road this morning the backup was all the way to Mount View. Some have suggested “they” whoever they may be, should be building light rail transit or a sea bus, both projects likely to approach a billion dollars in cost and a decade to complete. I have suggested a more modest approach of using the E& N to relieve congestion by running buses on it into town in the morning and out again in the evening, a much more cost effective and practical solution to easing congestion.
But the congestion is related to the number of single occupant vehicles - likely 80-90% of all vehicles stuck in traffic this morning. My comments to you and to others were simply stating the fact that if there was a $5 toll for single occupant vehicles during rush hours, the numbers of single occupant vehicles would plummet and commuting times would be significantly reduced. Saving twenty minutes for $5 might be very appealing for many of the existing drivers. I don’t commute and didn’t have to because I established my business in the Westshore to avoid it ( a position I will happily advocate to businesses whether elected or not). I also agree that imposing this toll on an unwilling public is highly unpalatable. I won’t be bringing this forward as a City initiative, the only conceivable way that it will ever get implemented is if the drivers stuck in traffic demand it.
So perhaps if I were a more seasoned politician I would not give such honest and direct answers, but for now I am happy to call it as I see it.
With regards to Ocean Blvd at the Lagoon I've repeatably heard it's not a matter of "if" we'll loose the road but, 'when'. With more commuter traffic becoming dependent on this route, what's the long term plan when we start seeing more road closures or loose this road completely?
Firstly we aren’t at the point of panic yet. A recent Colwood Coastal Erosion Study undertaken by the City had the following conclusions ( among others)
-Overall the Coburg Peninsula is resilient to small levels (less than 30cm.) of SLR with the shoreline position in a general state of equilibrium at this time.
-An expected 9m to 12m of shoreline retreat is expected between now and the year 2100 assuming that SLR is 1.0m during this time period. This amount of retreat will significantly impact the park and threaten the roadway infrastructure.
So the when the road becomes unusable is a long way in the future. SLR (sea level rise) is predicted to reach 1.0 m by 2100. For even 30 cm. of SLR we are looking at 25 to 30 years. The report recommends some level of beach replenishment, which is basically dredging up the sand that has been washed offshore and putting it back on the beach ( or, as the current council seems to contemplating, buying sand and barging it in). There is time to determine the appropriate course of action to protect the beach, lift station and roadway and extend the life of all of them. And during this period there may well be occasions of road closures during major storms and for clean up but this may be a small price to pay to keep the road open and avoid prematurely replacing the lift station.
And in 25 or 30 years, maybe we will all have autonomous cars that communicate with each other and increase the capacity of existing roads.
How would you preserve Colwood’s green spaces and waterfront?
Let me start with the waterfront first. We all understand that the sands that were replenishing the beach are no longer being discharged from the gravel pit and the beach is slowly being eroded away. Yes, sea level rise is contributing but very, very slowly. The existing council recently made the perplexing decisions to relocate the Ocean Boulevard lift station in 2020 and also to barge in sand as beach replenishment in front of the Ocean Boulevard lift station to protect it. I can’t follow the logic of both of these actions so will be looking to revisit these decisions if elected.
I believe that looking at significant beach replensihment is warranted. This will not only protect the lift station and roadway, but of course give us all more beach to enjoy. Yes erosion will continue to occur and replenishment will have limited life, but life in terms of decades is likely if done right. The council decision to place sand in front of the lift station was based on placing approximately 20,000 tonnes ( approximately 12,500 cubic meters) of sand in front of the lift station for a cost of $600,000. A previous report, referenced in the lift station reports calculated a cost of $2.9 M for 250,000 cu.m. of replenishment by dredging. I certainly appears that dredging of the sand that used to be on the beach and putting back on the beach is more cost effective than buying and barging sand, but there will be issues (not the least of which is how much can we afford).
My point on the beach is that it looks like council is heading down a wrong path and that there all alternatives that need to be explored before spending $2.2 M to relocate the lift station prematurely, and that I would encourage council to evaluate these options with an eye to enhancing and preserving the beach for many years to come.
I also support creating a walkway from Ocean Boulevard to Royal Bay that would be accessible to all. This may involve some sections of elevated boardwalk and will of course be subject to the same issues of littoral drift and sea level rise as the rest of the beach. This will need to be carefully planned and thought out, but better to invest a permanent walkway in this direction than to build further on the existing spit that separates the lagoon from the ocean.
As to green spaces, I believe that the first approach needs to be restraint on developing hillsides. Recent attempts to maximize developable area of steep slopes has resulted in denuding of the sites of all trees and in some cases massive retaining walls.
But in Colwood, preserving green spaces has to focus on the Royal Roads lands, the heart and lungs of our city. It appears that these lands will shortly be transferred to the Songhees, and we should welcome them to the City and work with them to develop a long term strategy for the lands that preserves public access and green space. Quite frankly we will need to be very careful with our tax policy so that it doesn’t burden the site with such excessive taxes that they are forced to speed up development. I expect that the Songhees will be as respectful of the lands as we are, but council will need to be careful and respectful in our dealings to ensure the legacy of these lands.