Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A BETTER MAPLE RIDGE 2010? And other musings.


Public Areas

1 All overhead wiring needs to go below grade (Hydro, Telephone, Cable and ancillary).

2 All street lighting needs to be upgraded throughout the District – current lighting standards are hazardous to old and young as the many deaths on our streets testify. There is not enough light on the street, making it easy for crime and hazardous for foot traffic (given that the district is part of a campaign to make Maple Ridge ‘walkable’ one would think that it would pay more attention to detail such as lighting).

3 Crosswalks need to be properly lit and signposted – this is obvious – it is only a matter of time before the next person is killed on a crosswalk – blame will be put on the driver or the pedestrian whereas the real blame lies with the District for poorly designed crosswalks.

4 General road repairs need to be undertaken all over, and while this being done to some extent, the program needs to be accelerated for the town to be up to snuff for 2010.

5 Shop keepers and landlords on the niche retail strip on the Lougheed need to add hanging baskets, awnings and similar devices to make the downtown shopping area more attractive.

6 Permanent task force hired by the District employed to do nothing more than remove shopping trolleys and sundry unsightly garbage from the streets.

7 The District urgently needs to change its attitude towards financing sidewalks. Over the years a policy of coercing developers into carrying the financial burden of sidewalks has become part of the District’s culture. This needs to change so that public sidewalks and services are constructed in a planned, consistent and contiguous manner and that the financial burden is born by the District/Tax payer.

The Development Community

1 Construction standards in Maple Ridge meet the allowable standards under Building Code in BC and generally comply with Canadian standards. As result new home buyers are not receiving value for their money. “Adequate” simply won’t do in the future. Far above adequate is where architects, developers and builders should be aiming. The current construction boom is having a negative impact on standards in BC – Maple Ridge seems content to follow the herd on this. It is unlikely anything is going change and home buyers should be prepared for lower standards as time progresses. We are seeing smaller livable areas, poorly built (if not hazardously built), using cheaper materials and sold at higher prices. Home buyers are being taken to the cleaners.

2 It may be tempting to think that homes are improving – dollar for dollar we are worse off than ever – overpaying for below standard homes. At the same time neither developers nor builders are making much more than net 10-15% on a home, so there do not appear to be any winners – excluding the lenders of course.

3 The age (beginning in the pioneering era) of combustible construction should be drawing to an end, but on the contrary is accelerating – this needs urgent attention. On a similar note – in the UK for instance, certain groups are trying to encourage similar construction that practiced in Canada. Presumably this is because timber-frame is quick and cheap, thereby reinforcing that buyers are indeed not getting value for money. If developers prefer ‘quick and cheap’ then that is what the buyer is getting; a product that is quick and cheap. This holds little promise for the neighbourhoods built in this way. Local government has to ask itself what these neighbourhoods will look like in 50 years. Interesting that we plan for the future through such devices as the livable regions plan, OCP and so on, but we never ask ourselves ‘how will what I am doing today (as opposed to planning) look in decades to come. Our perspective is narrowed and limited by the fact that we find it hard to extract ourselves from the present when we plan. We respond to our present instinctively. Land owners, developers, realtors, builders, consultants are interested in today’s profits as much as local government is focused on fiscal health. Government competes with companies and individuals for the same pot – often the community suffers as a result.