Canfor Expropriation Voted Down amid Disturbing Revleations!!

This morning, Voice Director, Dana Hings, and Voice President, Blair Armitage attended the Greater Vancouver Sewerage and Drainage District’s meeting. On the agenda was a report regarding Metro Vancouver’s attempted expropriation of the Canfor site in New Westminster.

At the beginning of the meeting, one of the board members brought up the idea of looking at the public process for delegations to present, feeling it was too restrictive. The board chair said that they would discuss this again. This was likely a result of Ms. Hings request to speak before the Board but missing the deadline by an hour. Ms. Hings had sent emails to the board and Mayor Wright asking for an exception but one wasn’t granted nor did she hear back from Mayor Wright.

Helen Spiegelman of Zero Waste Vancouver spoke eloquently and with such passion, as usual. Joe Foy of the Western Canada Wilderness Society, (and also a resident of New Westminster), spoke in regard to the impact on the wilderness and about recycling in general.

Quite a few board members spoke to the issue of rejecting the proposal for the land expropriation and most were reluctant to agree to reject but did as there were too many factors in the way. It was stated that this deal could be tied up in the courts for 3-4 years, and this group does not have this kind of time. It was mentioned on more than one occasion that this was handled backwards, where land is bought for such a use before public consultation. There was also no public consultation with the Fraser Valley, who have also shown opposition to the idea of increased use of incinerators within the region. The McBride Sapperton Residents’ Associations meetings were mentioned. Obviously the board recalled Neil Powell’s presentation before them in July and realized that they did not have the support of the neighbourhood.

Most board members were reluctant to reject this proposal for the same reasons mentioned above except for the Mayor of Pitt Meadow, Don MacLean. He still supported this proposal and, among other things, commended the Mayor of Port Moody for still trying to push this through, even with such opposition. He also commended Wayne Wright for bringing this site and acquisition forward in the first place!

This flies in the face of statements the mayor made less than 12 months ago in the press when he stated that he knew nothing about the proposal.

Letter from Neil Powell to Mayor Wright re: Metro Vancouver’s interest in Canfor Site

On Monday, Voice director, Neil Powell, sent the following letter to Mayor Wayne Wright.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mr. Mayor,
As you know the issue of waste management is of concern to all of New Westminster’s residents and businesses, particularly those living in Sapperton.
On Friday, January 30th, you will hopefully be attending the Metro Vancouver Waste Management Committee representing New Westminster as the region plans how best to handle the region’s waste. One of the items this committee will be discussing is the Inquiry Officer’s Report re: the attempted expropriation of the Canfor Lands. I’ve read the report and found it to be quite interesting. Of particular interest was the following quote, “Burnaby as a municipality is not supportive of further expansion of waste to energy facilities, whereas New Westminster appears to be encouraging of such developments: Transcript Sep 3/08, p.67.” (p.6, paragraph 16 of Inquiry Officer’s Report)

I had discussions with Metro Vancouver staff today in order to try and understand where this appearance of encouragement emanated from. I was informed that it was a result of Ms. Spitale and Councilor Harper’s visits to incinerators in England and Japan respectively.

Mayor Wright, I ask that you please not spend any additional taxpayer’s money on this issue until you consult our residents and businesses to see if we are interested in an incinerator, and the accompanying health, environmental and traffic concerns it will bring to our City.

Thank you,
– Neil Powell

Blair Armitage sent this letter to the two local papers regarding the Pattullo

The recent closure of the Pattullo Bridge linking Surrey with New Westminster has seriously highlighted the urgency to get on with repairing/replacing this woefully inadequate structure. It has also encouraged very healthy debate amongst the citizens of New Westminster.

While campaigning as candidate for Mayor during the municipal election this past fall, traffic was a priority issue with the many hundreds of people that I spoke with. Nothing highlighted this issue more than the sudden closure of the Pattullo Bridge 10 days ago. For a large number of residents it was instant relief from the noise and smells associated with the thousands of cars that normally go through their community. For others who live near the worst choke points in New Westminster such as the Braid and Columbia intersection, it was a bad dream moving into night terrors. Cars and trucks lined up endlessly as they inched their way onto Highway 1 spewing their exhaust fumes.

Translink has four recommended proposals to address the repair or replacement of the Pattullo Bridge. Some City Councilors have different ideas. Engage in debate at a neighbourhood coffee shop and you will hear a variety of options, but everyone concedes we have a serious traffic problem in New Westminster.

Two things are certain as a result of this recent crisis. The first is the urgency that confronts Translink and the Council of New Westminster to move as quickly as possible to repair and or replace the bridge. The second certainty is equally important – and that is the need to consult the citizens of New Westminster on this project. One needs only to read the local and the Vancouver newspapers to realize that there is a tremendous diversity of opinion.

It is said that out of every crisis comes opportunity. The recent events surrounding the construction of a new middle school on Grimston Park gave birth to a new consultative process. This process by all accounts has been very well received by parents, teachers, school board trustees, city staff and City Council and the Ministry of Education. As a strong advocate for dialogue and consultation, I could not be more pleased. Clearly we will reach consensus and we will get a new school.

I urge both our City Council and Translink to look seriously at the school board consultation process and seize this opportunity for dialogue while the Pattullo closure is fresh in everyone’s mind. However the repairs and or replacement of the bridge unfolds, it will have a very serious and lasting impact on the future of this City.

Time is the enemy now; we need to get on with it!

Blair Armitage
Voice New Westminster

What to do with the Pattullo? v.2.0

Voice director, Neil Powell, has an opinion on the replacement options too. This letter was also published in The Record, January 24, 2009.

It was almost two years ago that I wrote a letter to the editor regarding the, then FraserPort authority’s, idea of creating a new Island in the middle of the Fraser River for a Pattullo Bridge replacement and a container port. With the recent unfortunate closure of the Pattullo Bridge this issue is once again in the forefront in New Westminster.
I too have noticed a reduction in the morning traffic along E. 8th Avenue. In the afternoon though E.8th Avenue is a parking lot from Cumberland to Braid and Brunette with vehicles sitting idling and spewing more exhaust into our airshed.
So how do we solve these traffic issues when we build a replacement bridge and should Sapperton Island be considered as an option? In 2007 I encouraged, “our mayor and council to act within the spirit of our OCP in any and all future discussions regarding these sensitive islands.” I now read that they have asked, “TransLink to keep the Sapperton Bar option under consideration as part of future financial analyses.”
New Westminster’s Official Community Plan (OCP) tells us that the City has a desire, “for this parcel of federal land to be made into unserviced park (to maintain green viewscape)” (p.65). These islands, known as the “New Westminster Islands (Sapperton Middle Ground)” in the OCP, are described as a “sensitive environmental habitat” (p.44). These islands are given a special designation, “in order to preserve its scenic value when viewed from the rest of the City and for its valuable aquatic and wildlife habitat” (p.165). Two of the objectives of this designation are to, “Guide this area towards use as a natural conservation area” and to, “Preserve and enhance the natural environment” (p.165). We go on to read that any guideline issued shall be in accordance with the following guidelines:
1. Maintain a permanent circle of trees around the circumference of the Islands to protect
the fish habitat.
2. Where possible, accommodate log booms around the periphery of the Islands.

Once again I feel the need to encourage our City council to act in manner consistent with the vision found within our OCP. The idea that Option 4 would involve a tunnel from East Columbia Street at Cumberland, “under Cumberland to a portal on McBride Boulevard near Eighth Avenue,” can only be considered a pipe dream. Although it might seem as if the Sapperton Island alignment would divert traffic around New Westminster in reality it would just move it to an area where commuters don’t really want to be and this would just result in further shortcutting as they try to get where they really want to be.
I am heartened to learn that TransLink is firm in their resolve to have the new bridge tolled. This is consistent with the original tenets of the Livable Region Strategic Plan which calls for us to: 1. Protect the green zone, 2) Build complete communities, 3) Achieve a compact metropolitan region; and 4) Increase transportation choices. A greater Vancouver region-wide toll system should be considered. The technology exists to have variable rate tolls at different times of the day across an entire system. Congestion pricing such as this could be an effective tool in getting the most out of the Lower Mainland’s bridge and highway system and it would generate funding for capital expenditures. For example, transit options that are realistic alternatives to driving a car.
Let’s think through all the possible consequences of location, tolling, alignment with local roads, and access by cyclists and pedestrians as we plan this much needed replacement crossing.

– Neil Powell
New Westminster

Pattullo Bridge – What to do? v.1.0

Well, with the recent closure of the Pattullo Bridge it seems everyone has an opinion on its replacement. Here is the first such comment. The following is a letter that Voice director, Paul Johansen sent to The Record and News Leader.
Since the closure of the Patullo bridge (due to fire on the Surrey side of the structure), the traffic in New Westminster has immediately and dramatically improved: on Royal Avenue, McBride Blvd., Eighth Avenue and Tenth Avenue, traffic flow is good. I hope the Minister, in conjunction with New Westminster city officials, recognize this and have another serious look at “option 4″ of Translink’s Pattullo Corridor Study that calls for the construction of the replacement bridge to be aligned with Sapperton Island and tie into United Boulevard, Lougheed Highway, as well as the freeway.

With Coquitlam’s development plans and potential, and the current population numbers out their way, and the geographic size and strategic location of our neighbouring municipality, in comparison to New Westminster, they are far better poised to receive expanded traffic volumes. For 71 years, New Westminster has hosted major regional traffic flows, but we do not have and will not have adequate ability to accommodate the added traffic capacity of a six-lane bridge. Keeping in mind that New Westminster will still have the Alex Fraser and Queensborough volumes and will likely continue to handle much of the Port Mann traffic, in terms of forward-thinking, good regional planning, in order to maximize limited resources and address current and future commuter needs, the new bridge should not re-connect with an already congested city; it should be positioned to optimize future commercial and residential growth patterns. The current traffic flow on 20th street also needs to be addressed. I would like to thank the New Westminster City staff for raising the Engineering Report on the Pattullo Corridor Study — Preliminary Findings and Next Steps at their previous City Council meeting. This is a subject that warrants the immediate attention of all New Westminster citizens.

Paul Johansen
New Westminster Resident