Anmore Alternative News - Company Message

This page was established on July 10, 2016. The most recent posting will be at the top. Please scroll down for earlier questions and responses from the Mayor.

Mayor McEwen wants to hear from you!

We are now almost half way through the first term of a four-year mandate with two-term Councillor John McEwen as the new Mayor of Anmore. This seems to be an appropriate time to ask for his reflections on the first two years of this mandate and his vision for the final two years. His Honour has kindly agreed to answer a question a week in a new Anmore Alternative News column ‘Talking with Mayor McEwen’. Thank you Mayor McEwen. To link to the questions Click Here.

“I believe that Anmore’s mayor should take the initiative and proactively manage Anmore’s growth. I also want to ensure that Anmore takes the necessary steps to become financially sustainable. Finally, I intend to deliver a transparent and accountable government for Anmore residents.” (John McEwen, Election 2014)

During the 2014 Election Campaign John McEwen promised to:
·        Manage Growth
·        Pursue Financial Sustainability
·        Increase Accountability
·        Ensure Transparency

 The words fairness, accessibility, and openness were central to his campaign. His campaign videos highlighted creating ‘central community space’ (Link to Video) and ‘park and trail access and connectivity’ (Link to Video).

 Question 9: You worked with Lees and Associates on creating the Anmore Parks Master Plan. According to the report, while the Village of Anmore contains 17 park and open space sites over 9.57 hectares of land, much of this is not "usable" as neighbourhood or community park space. As well, trails are a relatively low financial investment, and are used by a wide segment of the population. The report recommended both accessible parks and that the maintenance and further development of trails be high priorities for the Village. Please bring us up-to-date on Council actions on the recommendations in the Anmore Parks Master Plan.

Mayor McEwen: As a councillor for six years, and before being elected Mayor, I chaired the Parks Committee and was a strong advocate for a Parks Master Plan which was eventually developed by Lees and Associates. As Parks Committee Chair, I wondered about the parcels of land the Village was receiving from various developments. They were often nothing more than undevelopable parcels, encumbered by right-of-ways, water courses, or non-buildable lots. It was clear to me that we needed policies to correct this situation.

As the Parks Master Plan was being compiled, I was reminded of the old saying 'be careful what you wish for'.  It became very clear that active parks have significant costs associated with their development and maintenance. Two prominent areas emerged in the planning process - 1) trail network development and 2) the design and creation of a central Village gathering space. Considering community advice, the Parks Master now sets forward a clear vision of the community wants and needs.

As Mayor, I'm hoping to start work at the beginning of next year on the design of a central Village gathering spot. This will then help in regards to design of a new Village Hall. Council will also need to discuss our trail network and its consistency and how to secure private lands which now comprise some of our trail network. As well, as our trail network grows, Council will need to address costs and possible equipment needed for maintenance and development.

Editor's Note: Much of this ground work on Parks and Trails was prepared by former Councillor Dr. Chris Sedergreen who served on the committee with Councillor McEwen.. Before Council engaged the consultants, Lees and Associates to create the Anmore Parks Master Plan, Dr. Sedergreen personally trekked "all of the undevelopable parcels, encumbered by right-of-ways, water courses, or non-buildable lots" donated by developers in exchange for concessions and high density housing in their developments. Councillor Sedergreen gave his sage recommendations in a report to Council long before the consultants gave their almost identical advice. Thank you to Dr. Sedergreen for all of your no-cost efforts on our behalf.

Question 8: In one of your election campaign videos you talked about creating Central Community Space. What is your vision for this space and how will it be financed?

 Mayor McEwen: A central community space is of upmost importance to me. It creates a gathering space for hosting the community events which define Anmore's small community feeling. In Anmore these events consist of the Easter Egg Hunt, Halloween, Christmas, and, of course, our very own Ma Murray Day.

The current Village Center consists of three parcels of land divided by Ravenswood Drive and Ma Murray Lane.The goal of Council is to connect all three of these parcels into one large parcel of land by rerouting the existing two roads which would create a parcel approx 4.5 acres in size.

From this, we would be able to position a new Village Hall and eliminate safety issues with traffic on these two roads as well as having enough space to facilitate our growing community. Conversations are also forth coming about the possible incorporation of a retail component to this space which might host a Bakery/Coffee Shop.

The importance of developing a solid thorough plan for this area cannot be understated, it will define the Village Center for years to come. I'm hoping that in the new year Council will start moving forward with discussions on this exciting idea.

Question Number 7.  (19-09-16) The `Murray´ House is 100 years old this year. A previous Council designated it a heritage building, it has served as the Village Hall since incorporation, and is a pivotal place for Village celebrations. At the All Candidates Meeting you stated that Anmore heritage is important but that the Village Hall was beyond repair. A Heritage BC architect has now confirmed that the original heritage building is in very good condition but the recent additions are not worth saving. We understand that all of the current Council is on-board to save this heritage home so central to our Anmore roots. How do you see this second resurrection unfolding?

MAYOR McEWEN: Our community roots are extremely important to me and all members of Anmore Council. When the Anmore Village Hall was condemned in November of 2012 because of neglect over the years, uncertainty evolved regarding next steps.

 Initially Council focused on the entire building which, other than the original homestead which served as the Council chambers, has since been determined to have little if any historical content. For example the counter area addition was a closed-in garage.

During the years that the building has been vacant, architectural, structural, and historical professionals confirmed for Council that, while most of the building is not worth saving, the original 800 sq. ft. Murray homestead is not only of major historical significance but it is also in good condition to restore. Council was thrilled with this news because now, not only could we save this building so important to our Anmore identity but it would be more economical to address. 

Currently Council is waiting for cost estimates to: severe the original Murray homestead from the existing portion, and to move and secure it until an overall plan for the Village Centre is developed. These costs will dictate the future.

As a small community, our funds are limited. We definitely need help from other levels of government, as well as community groups, to pull this off. Council will pursue every avenue to make this happen, but we need your help.

The ‘Newspapering Murray’ legacy is bigger than our little village. This heritage belongs not only to Anmore, but also to BC and Canada. So I ask residents of Anmore, please take our stewardship responsibility seriously, engage with whoever will listen, and seek the collaboration and support of others. Let's save this piece of history within our Village!

QUESTION NUMBER SIX (21-08-16) On September 10, 2013 the Fraser Health Authority imposed a ‘Boil Water Advisory’ on the Village. Fraser Health also confirmed some of the early coliform counts were in the range of 400 to 500 parts per 100 millilitres of tested water where the acceptable number in B.C. is no more than 10 total coliforms per sample. The Advisory lasted for over a month.  A number of residents are still depending on other sources of drinking water. Can you explain what the current Council is doing to ensure safe potable water for the community?

The boil water advisory which occurred in 2013, was an eye opener as to the condition of our aging infrastructure. I personally felt that the severity of the advisory wasn't taken seriously enough from both Council and Staff.  I believe the utmost role of Council is to ensure the safety and well being of all residents.

With that being said, after the advisory commenced, I lobbied extensively on Council to survey our entire water system in an effort to identify other possible issues with quality and supply. Dayton and Knight were initially contracted to oversee the resolution of the issues that led to the 'boil water' advisory.  At this time, I strongly advocated for further Village-wide analysis which Council did approve resulting in the Water Modelling Report .

In the report, recommendations were made to upgrade the piping to ensure adequate flows throughout the Village and to loop currently dead-end sections to eliminate stagnation. The report articulated concern that if a fire had broken out north of Hemlock, there would have been inadequate flow to fight it.  When I became Mayor, fixing this was one of my highest priorities.

When a subdivision proposal came forward near the north end of the Village, we were able to address this concern through the developer's community amenity contribution. The contribution consisted of a significant pipe upgrade down Sunnyside as well as a looping through Eaglecrest to Alpine at a cost close to a million dollars. I voted in favour of the Comprehensive Development proposal because of this contribution, and also because of the 45% parkland donation and a density of only 1.2 houses per acre.

As mayor, I will continue to advocate tirelessly for the improved safety and well being of all residents. This will definitely include consideration of the Dayton and Knight Water Modelling Report as new development applications come forward to Council.

QUESTION NUMBER FIVE (15-08-16): Your third priority for the 2014 election was accountability and transparency. We commend you for having thorough and up-to-date Minutes of Regular Council Meetings and for trying to improve the Village website. As well, you were willing to listen to residents and establish the Mayor’s Task Force on in-fill to consider the needs of long-term residents as well as the developers. There has however been much criticism about the new rules for volunteer participation on Council Committees, for public participation in Council Meetings, and about the large number of last minute in-camera meetings. Please explain the measures that Council has taken to be more open, transparent, and accountable.

MAYOR McEWEN: Transparency and accountability throughout local government is of utmost concern to me. I have strongly advocated for this with limited success throughout my precious terms on Council. Since becoming Mayor, it truly has been one of the most pressing issues for me within the Village of Anmore.

As promised, I wanted Council to hear from those who didn't get the opportunity through the recent Official Community Plan process to discuss infill, and therefore created the Mayor's Task Force on this topic.  As well, I've asked staff to widely advertise upcoming meetings through all of the media tools within the Village. 

As well, processes are now in place to ensure that meeting minutes are prepared and posted in a timely manner while they are still relevant. This fall, with the expansion of our temporary Village Hall, I plan on hosting an afternoon coffee chat with the Mayor for anyone to come stop by and discuss things, ask questions, or just share a coffee and say hello.

Public participation at meetings is something I respect greatly yet the functioning of our meetings needs to be facilitated in a business-like manner. Anyone from the public is welcome to provide thoughts and comments on any item on the agenda before Council deliberates. As well, Public Question Period at the end of all meetings provides the opportunity for people to ask questions of a more general nature once the core business of the meeting has been addressed.

As a Council we are governed by the BC rules of discussion for in-camera meetings, "Labour, Land, and Legal." I always question staff about the topics of debate to ensure in-camera compliance and when applicable that the deliberations and decisions are released. I am hoping that effective decisions from both Staff and Council will greatly reduce the number of legal issues with significant financial savings flowing to the Village.

Volunteerism is of utmost concern to me throughout the Village. As I've commented previously, without community volunteers our Village wouldn't be able to operate as we currently see it. Council desperately needs to maintain and promote the involvement of current volunteers and encourage others to become engaged. Enhancing this volunteer base can be challenging with all of our busy lives, so to address this,we as a Council have to look at diverse incentives for volunteer participation, such as housing choices.

QUESTION NUMBER FOUR: (08-08-16): Please comment on your first two years relative to the following excerpts from the Vann Struth Financial Sustainability Report  prepared for the Village:

(Page 58) The most important conclusion is that regardless of new housing development or the rate of growth, the Village has insufficient revenues to simultaneously maintain existing services, to pay off the existing backlog of infrastructure costs, and to save for the replacement of all of the new infrastructure that will be built over the next 20 years. Using Pinnacle Ridge as a proxy, the replacement of new infrastructure will be about five times more costly on a per acre basis than the replacement of Anmore's current infrastructure.

(Page 32) The scenarios are assumed to apply only to current vacant land, it is recognized, however, that redevelopment and subdivision of currently developed land will also occur. Redevelopment is ignored for the purposes of this study in order to isolate the differences between alternative development scenarios, but it should be noted that the total population and housing unit capacity of the community will also be affected by the density of redevelopment within Anmore's already built areas.

MAYOR McEWEN: In my first two years as Mayor, I have had to educate Council as to the challenging financial position in the Village. One of our Finance Committees a number of years back saw the writing on the wall regarding the replacement of aging infrastructure and identified the need to make the kind of fiscally sound decisions called for in the Financial Sustainability Report. This report guides many of our current decisions.

The Financial Sustainability Report clearly shows that maintaining the current status quo isn't an option. With such a limited Taxation base, we need to consistently increase revenues to address our shortfall. We also need smarter more efficient developments. Every dollar that is spent in our Village needs to be heavily scrutinized.

Developments such as Pinnacle Ridge are not only environmentally challenging, they also burden the Village with significant infrastructure accommodating only a few homes. Much of the remaining undeveloped land in Anmore is on hillsides which require significant capital to develop. Collaboration, innovation and Village oversight will be required as development proceeds.

I truly believe that financial management is the key to our longer-term sustainability. To this end,  I have worked to establish working relationships with neighbouring municipalities. Together we are cutting costs and increasing our service levels through joint ventures and cooperation.

QUESTION NUMBER THREE (August 2, 2016): "Managing growth is a very complex objective, especially given the `hot´ real estate market in Metro Vancouver. You should be congratulated for recognizing that while "the OCP is a guiding document it is not a rigid one and it needs to be responsive to our changing needs." The Anmore Official Community Plan calls for a medium growth scenario until 2034 of 61 people and an average of 21 lots per year. However recent development has exceeded this medium growth scenario many fold. With the Metro Vancouver `Rural´ designation, please describe the challenges faced by Council in managing growth in a fair and equitable way for long-term residents and developers alike."

MAYOR McEWEN: Firstly the pressures from development are upon us right now. Previous Council decisions to zone all of Anmore RS-1 (one acre) in an effort to secure rural growth has enabled large influxes of wealth to buy these parcels and build large homes with pools, tennis courts, etc, actually detracting from the rural components we all cherish so much.

However I believe that people have the right to develop their land at their wishes. With the land being already zoned the way it is, we as a Council cannot control RS-1 development. Therefore, at the moment, the growth projections that you ask about are just that projections beyond our control.

As for our Official Community Plan, I believe it to be a guiding document in its entirety. However, from time to time, the real estate market and other circumstances outside of our control may force us to rethink portions of it.  Right now, I feel the OCP is unfortunately falling short in protecting the Anmore sense of community and allowing our senior residents to age in place.

The Village depends heavily on community engagement and volunteerism through groups such as the Sasamat Volunteer Fire Dept, Garden Club, and the Scouts. Maintaining these requires affordable housing and encouraging families into our community.

As far as our seniors go, I'm constantly asked what we as a Council are doing to ensure those residents wanting to downsize have an opportunity to do so. I believe a combination of smaller lot/house developments as well as infill will begin to address their needs.

As a Council, I think we need to consider what incentives and alternatives we can offer to land owners in an effort to promote the growth we desire; smaller houses, clustering, and infill. Our Village is truly at a pivotal point.  As a CTV reporter commented to me last week, ' if Anmore doesn't make the necessary changes we could become just like the Hamptons.' **

** The Hamptons, also called the "East End" (of Long Island), are a group of villages and hamlets in the towns of Southampton and East Hampton, which form the South Fork of Long Island, New York, U.S. The Hamptons form a popular seaside resort, one of the historical summer colonies of the American Northeast. The area features some of the most expensive and luxurious residential properties in the U.S.; in 2016, according to Business Insider, the 11962 ZIP code encompassing Sagaponack, within Southampton, was listed as the most expensive in the U.S., with a median home sale price of $8.5 million. (Wikipedia)

Talking to the Mayor: Mayor McEwen was unavailable this past week. He will answer Question 3 next week (24-07-16)

QUESTION NUMBER TWO (July 17, 2016):

In the first two years of your four year term, please describe:
a)      Your best successes as Mayor
b)      Your biggest challenges as Mayor

Best Successes as Mayor;

  • Establishing Accountability through staff and council

  • Establishing consistency. Everyone treated the same.

  • Follow through on plans - Parks Plan, creating a Village Center, rectifying shortfalls in the water system and implementing the Water Master Plan, making our roads safe.

  • Developing solid relationships with neighbouring Tri-City jurisdictions.

Mayor McEwen joins other Tri-city Mayors at the Port Coquitlam Grand Pris


  • Changing the mindset of the past.

  • Establishing Anmore as a respected collaborator in Tri-City planning.

  • Rethinking development to ensure a healthy viable Village.

  • Establish a gathering spot.

  • Retaining our heritage.

  • Financial sustainability.

QUESTION NUMBER ONE (July 10, 2016) : You were on Council for two terms prior to becoming the Mayor of Anmore. All but one of the members is new to Council. As well, there has been considerable change at the senior staff level. Please describe both the challenges and opportunities posed by these circumstances.

MAYOR McEWEN:  “Thank you for the question. You are absolutely correct in your assessment of challenges both at the council and staff levels, but these challenges have largely been opportunities for me to share my experience and help to educate the new members.

At the Council level, there are so many lessons that I learned over my six years as a Councillor which I have shared with members of Council. I think the most important lesson that I learned is how to differentiate Council’s role from that of staff. The new Council members have quickly come to understand that the Mayor and Council set overall policy and direction. The Chief Administrative Officer and staff are responsible for implementation and operations.

With the changes in Council members and staff one major challenge has been the need for continuity and setting out of the facts and history of particular issues that we are dealing with. The need to orient new members takes much more time than I would like. However, I think that the presentation of the unbiased information helps to inform them so that we can make sound decisions on the issues before us.

 At the Staff level, we have been very fortunate in hiring extremely qualified candidates to fill vacant senior positions such as the new Chief Administrative Officer, and Building Inspector/Bylaw Officer. These new candidates offer a fresh start with fresh ideas. The Village also benefits from the breadth of education and experience of our new staff. We are hoping this will help offset some of our consulting fees as some full-time staff play double roles.  For example, Ms Kolby is both CAO and Chief Financial Officer.

Anmore Council also gets the added benefits of the synergies, experience, and contacts the new personnel bring from their past employment. For example, rather than re-inventing the wheel, Ms Kolby recently called her previous contacts in Port Moody to get their policy on purchasing which she helped develop to help in the formulation of a similar policy in Anmore. Fostering these relationships helps to assign meeting room space for our meetings during this period of transition with the Village Hall.


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