Once More unto the Council, dear friends–tonight!

I told you about signing the documents and paying the price so that we could go before council February 24th. Well that date sure snuck up on us. It’s today!

It was confirmed for me while Leanne and I were hob-nobbing with the excellent business community here at the annual Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows business excellence awards. It was my first chance to chat with our new Mayor Nicole Read (not to be confused with Nichole from BCIT who studied the air quality in our house). Councillor Craig Speirs chimed in that we were on the City Council agenda this Tuesday.

Oh. So it’s real.

We were at the gala to cheer on our friends Vicki McLeod, who won Business Person of the Year, Karen Learmonth, a finalist for home-based business of the year for Amberlight Photography, and the Family Education and Support Centre. There are some amazing people and organizations around here. We had a great time. (Thanks Vicki and Ian McLeod for my ticket!)

I made an effort to describe presenting to Council the first time our Heritage Revitalization Agreement went before council in one of my pre-election posts. I’m not sure I did it justice, but at least you can read what I said to council. We were pretty frustrated at the pace of our application and the hoops we were jumping through.

At the party Mayor Read said she would like to hear feedback on the HRA process. I gave her a little and asked if she would like me to say a few words at the council meeting. She said yes, so I was going to prepare a couple of quick points. However, I checked with staff about the procedure for commenting and learned that maybe tonight’s meeting is not the best venue.

Hammond Forever House on the agenda
Hammond Forever House on the agenda

You see, our application has been through almost all the public steps. At the Committee of the Whole meeting I spoke to Council; at the Public Hearing, the public was invited to comment (nobody did); but at the Council meeting when they granted us first and second reading, it was staff who answered the questions. This has something to do with keeping the process fair. After a public hearing, Council cannot accept any new information from the applicant.

I could comment on the HRA process, but chances are I would use our application as an example, and that would put Mayor and Council in an awkward position because it could be seen as new information. Nope, my input on the HRA will have to wait for another time–a delegation before Council perhaps, or a private meeting.

I was going to bring Leanne and the kids along, but let’s face it, this is going to be a boring meeting–and anyway it’s livestreamed so they can watch it at home!

You can find our full agreement, Statement of Significance and Conservation Plan, etc. on the City of Maple Ridge’s website. (Skip to page 100.)

I may be sporting my brand new reading glasses from Pacific Eye Doctors. More gravitas.
I may be sporting my brand new reading glasses from Pacific Eye Doctors. More gravitas.

In general, what I would say to Council (if I were to say anything but I’m not) is that the HRA should be a tool to help the owners of all the small, historic mill-workers homes in Hammond protect their property forever. The tax exemption should help pay for a Statement of Significance and a Conservation Plan and other expenses incurred by the process. The process should be simpler for a single-family property application with no increase in density and no major renovation than it is for a development which moves a heritage house to the corner of a property in order to make room for other newly built houses.

Furthermore, since these houses are often badly insulated, there should be an option, under certain criteria, for Council to grant an HRA applicant a further tax exemption if the house is retrofit for energy efficiency as part of the plans. This step will take some of the sting out of designating an old home heritage because you can reduce your future energy bills.

These measures, taken together, could make for many well-kept, well-insulated and well-loved heritage properties in Hammond which will preserve that much sought-after neighbourhood character we speak of so much as Hammond Neighbours.

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James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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