Citizens flocked to Aggie Hall earlier this week to hear from seven candidates vying for votes and a chance at a seat around the city council table.
It was standing room for the forum organized by the Chamber of Commerce as Amanda Jacobson, Rob Johnson, Tricia McKay, Duck Paterson, Malcolm Sacht, Marsh Stevens and Jeff Vertanen took questions from residents with much of the focus on the Waterfront Plan, construction at the Rocky Creek Dip and the proposed Holland Creek Bridge.
Steve Arnett and Joe Friesenhan were both absent from the debate. Friesenhan was away on vacation and was planning to attend before the date for the event was changed because of a scheduling conflict at Aggie Hall.
Below, the Chronicle has transcribed 14 key statements made by the candidates at two hour forum:
On development at Transfer Beach and the Waterfront Plan
“There are parts of the development that I support and that I agree with and then there are parts that I don’t agree with. It seems to me that this whole development is part in parcel, you take one, you take it all. For the condos, I don’t support the zoning of six stories. I don’t think we need six stories. I don’t know that that’s much density is needed down there. I think there’s other areas in town that would support density at that level….As far as the commercial development, the boardwalk, bringing some life down there, I do support that. ” – Amanda Jacobson
“I have contacted the city manager and asked, has there been an appraisal done on this property ? The answer was no. I asked if you have a buyer lined up for it ? The answer was no. The question that I have when ask various realtors, how much do you think that property is worth ? And I’m hearing figures within $6-10 million. Six to ten million dollars is barely a drop in the bucket for the waterfront plan . I don’t call the Waterfront Plan a plan, I call it a vision. There’s no secure information as to what’s actually going to go there. We don’t know if there’s going to be a hotel there. We don’t know who’s going to build on the waterfront. We don’t know if the First Nations cultural centre is going to go there yet. These are all wishes. ” – Rob Johnson
“I think it comes down to compromise and a question of wants. The process by which the plan came about was certainly well advertised and people came out to it. I don’t think we still have a definitive answer. The fact remains, the plan, if in fact is wanted, I don’t see any way of getting away from the fact that we need skin in the game. I’m experienced in a housing development that’s going on in town – our world changed when we secured a piece of property. Governments want to know you have skin in the game…. I have faith that in the development permit stage in some of the things, the plan’s not a fait accompli. Rob’s right, it’s a concept and there’s so much more to do and so many mechanisms that the town has, and that the citizens have, for input in it.” – Marsh Stevens
“I think it’s unfortunate that this Waterfront Plan has become hijacked by being just about the condos because I don’t think you can look at it being just about the condos. You have to look it as an entire plan. There’s a commercial fishing warf, Stz’uminus Cultural Centre, arts and heritage hub. We’ve been trying to do this for as long as I can remember, 25, 30 yeas we’ve been talking about this. ” – Jeff Virtanen
In theory, I believe we need to develop our waterfront. It is too long gone without us taking advantage of that amazing area. There has to be some kind of housing. Does it have to be six storeys high ? I don’t know yet. I haven’t been a part of that part of the development. I trust that as the new council we’ll have the opportunity to look at the details and get into the minutiae of what’s going to be happening as it moves forward over a long period of time. One thing I can tell you, Transfer Beach as it exists today is a true jewel of Ladysmith and I believe that if a town can create and maintain that beautiful, working space that virtually every citizen is there to enjoy, imagine what we as a community can do if we get our minds together and get ourselves behind the development of the rest of our waterfront.” – Tricia McKay
On the culvert replacement at the Rocky Creek Dip
“Unfortunately when that culvert washed out and by the time the new drawings for a bridge were done…we missed fisheries window. So the town purchased a piece of property at the end of Churchill to put a temporary road at this time through there so those folks aren’t land-locked. That project is going to be re-tendered so that we can put in a proper crossing that will last for, and nowadays every municipality is planning for the 200 year storm, and we have to meet the Fisheries window when we do that construction. Yes, you’re going to have a one lane road for probably a few more months at least. Will that road going through to McKinley be permanent ? Years ago when that was developed that was the plan. Is it going to happen ? I don’t know. Should it happen ? Yes.” – Duck Paterson
“I do live on Davidson Road and have been effected by this as well. The communication from the town was just horrible…when you go to the town and ask can we get some speed bumps here it’s a park entrance, there’s kids playing here, there’s 18 month old babies walking around, and the town says oh we don’t do speed bumps… we had no idea what was going on, the foresight on this project was atrocious.” – Malcolm Sacht
On the role of local government in dealing with homeless and the housing crisis
“I believe that we can do more to help the homeless as it is a growing concern throughout B.C. We can start more initiatives and get more funding to organizations that provide food and shelter. I believe that we can also help with rehabilitation programs because more of these people suffer from mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction. I would like to see more funding going into this.” – Malcolm Sacht
“The housing crisis extends to people who are two pretty good incomes but can’t find a place to rent or buy. I believe there are things we can do in terms of rezoning, in terms of density. Like I said earlier, the town has a program that the LRCA is taking advantage of in their zoning application to wave the DCCs if you promise to be affordable for 25 years. Easy to do. It does the municipality stepping up to the extent it can. It is a provincial responsibility but I met with the minister of housing and gave my spiel and the first thing she did was turn to me and say ‘what’s the municipality thing about it’… the relationship is key.” – Marsh Stevens
I work with people every day who are facing housing issues, they’re trying to invest in our community. What we really need to address, like Duck said, is that a lot of the issues that are caused are coming down from higher levels of government. We are looking at restrictions from the Department of Finance at the federal level. Tougher qualification restrictions, so that even if people want to buy a rental property they are facing a lot hoops to jump through….We do understand that the more inventory there is the easier it is for people to afford. That brings prices down. The Department of Finance has brought down so many changes that people, it’s not even saleable for them to invest in this anymore.” – Amanda Jacobson
On hiring an economic development officer and committee restructuring
“It’s something that I would like to see us do is hire an economic development officer who is paid on an achievement basis. So it’s not a salary, or a staff position, it would be a contract position. I don’t believe that we, and I’m a very, very strong believe in volunteers, (but) a position like that where they are making decisions that the town could be bound by, you can not leave up to a volunteer position. You have to have someone that is in a position of authority in the community….. it’s not the fastest organization in the world, just like every other level of government. It takes way too long at times to get things done. We have been talking for the last four years about reorganizing our whole committee structure, our commissions, and we haven’t done it yet. You can blame council for that. It’s just things get in the way…” – Duck Paterson
On how to maintain the town’s relationship with Stz’uminus First Nation
“I don’t think it’s a question of how. We’ve actually done a wonderful job on both sides…the whole development out there by the Husky station. Just continue the open dialogue that we already have with First Nations and just keep the open dialogue as long as we can.” – Jeff Virtanen
On the proposed Holland Creek bridge
It’s a necessary crossing that has to be put in. It’s going to be put in to service areas of land that already sold that belong to developers…. we are currently looking at a situation where there’s one road for people who are going to be living in those areas to come and go and they need a second point to come and go just like we’re talking about in the situation at the dip on 4th Avenue. This is a good example of a way to get around that right out of the gate. There have to be multiple ways to get in and out of an area in order for it to be safe and reasonable for development….I don’t know whether you’re going to get away with making it perfect, nothing is ever perfect in those circumstances as a bridge in the middle of a beautiful forest but it’s a necessary evil and I think that the town will work hard to make the impact is minimized for the citizens and the people who use Holland Creek.” – Tricia McKay
The question is how can you do it with the least impact. The designs of the culvert-type bridge, I don’t know if that’s the answer but if you take the time and the effort and take a look at the plans and to be presented to council and the drawings, the new and the old council would like to hear from you as to your input. One of the things I found very surprising when I was at council when they talking about this bridge is it’s going to have a fairly steep vertical wall that’s all going to be in plants…but in the overall drawings, the overall drawings, I think people will be quite pleased by what they see. It’s not best solution but something has to happen to make this happen.” – Rob Johnson