Thursday, 29 September 2011

RE: BUILDING HEIGHTS KEY TO WHITE ROCK'S VIABILITY

Shortly after being elected in 2008, the CPR Slate Majority on Council ( Sinclair, Campbell, McLean, Fathers, and Coleridge) forced through a hastily formulated amendment to the Official Community Plan (OCP) which reduced the allowable density and capped the maximum building height in the Upper Town Centre at 12 storeys.

It is important to remember that we are only dealing with the Upper Town Centre here. This is defined as the blocks bounded by North Bluff, Martin , Thrift, and George.

The intent of the CPR amendment was to ensure that no more high rises such as the Bosa Development would ever be built again. Of course that disregarded the Essence Project on Thrift between Johnston and George which has at least one 15 storey tower, and the Avra development just half a block to the  north which has one 15 storey tower. It also disregards the remaining two towers of the Bosa project.

In October, 2010 Council evidently noticed Johnston Rd in particular, was not looking very attractive to business, and so they commissioned a $50,000 study by  Coriolis Consulting Corp. The entire 116 page report (Business Needs Assessment Study) is available on the Home Page of the City's website.

The report is quite exhaustive (and exhausting to read). The major point which comes out of it is that in order for White Rock businesses to do well, and for new businesses to move here and fill up those vacant store fronts, Council needs to take some steps to provide customers for the businesses.

Since White Rock is highly unlikely to attract the kind of businesses that are "destinations", it must attract and retain businesses which cater to the local population (the exceptions to this are the Marine Dr restaurants). The present population uptown is insufficient to provide enough customers. Consequently, we need more people living in the Town Centre within easy walking distance of the stores.

The only way for more people/ customers to come is to have more redevelopment. Coriolis states that redevelopment will not happen with the recently imposed density restrictions the CPR Slate put in place. Simply put it is uneconomical to redevelop White Rock's Town Centre at the current allowable density - so things will never improve they will only get worse. The CPR led Council goofed - not only did they stop high rises they stopped everything!

"So what?", you might ask. Well aside from adding a lot to your quality of life, and providing employment to a lot of people, healthy businesses pay healthy taxes. Without the business taxes we receive the residential property taxes would be a lot higher - to the point where having to join Surrey is no longer a possibility , it is inevitable.

Personally, while I am not too sure that greater heights are absolutely vital, I am very sure about the need to increase the allowable density.

"White Rock Matters"

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Further Explanation to White Rock Salary Issues

My letter to the Peace Arch News editor was mentioned, but not printed as originally written. While I appreciate their willingness to broadcast the concerns I have over the salary issues mentioned, I want to explain some things a little bit more. Here we go ...

RE: EX-MANAGER KNOCKS WAGES

On Sept 13 the PAN printed an article, attached to this blog, based on a letter which I had submitted to the Editor on Sept 2. While the article somewhat captures the sense of the letter it does not truly represent my concerns. To a degree , it comes off as a "sour grapes" kind of rant which was not my intent.

My real concern is that this Council does not appear to know what it is doing and is making decisions without really understanding the ramifications of the decision. This salary discussion was just one example of that.

In the letter, I pointed out that the City Manager was hired in 2006, at an agreed upon rate of $140,000 annually which could be revised at the discretion of Council. For 2007 she received $149,988. In 2008 she received $153,912. For 2009 she jumped way up to $180,917 and jumped again for 2010 to $194,535 (of which some portion was cash in lieu of time off). This represents an increase of $54,535  in annual salary (39%) in just four years.

By way of comparison, the pay for the Surrey City Manager went from $250,334 in 2007, to $252,913 in 2008, and $265,962 in 2009. For some reason it actually dropped in 2010 to $263,085. So over 4 years there was an increase of  about $15,600 annually or 6%.

Another , more relevant comparator, would be the City of Port Moody's City Manager. Port Moody is the closest to White Rock in population  in Metro Vancouver. In 2007, their CM received $154,272 and in 2008 he got $158,208. By 2009 it had risen to $167,593. For some reason in 2010 he received only $161,807. Over the comparable 4 years  (and using the maximum spread) he had an increase of only about $9000 or about 6%.

So, the question has to be asked why would Surrey's City Manager and Port Moody's City Manager receive wage increases of 6%  while White Rock's City Manager goes up by nearly 40%? Moreover, why would we pay our City Manager $30,000 more annually than the somewhat larger City of  Port Moody pays theirs?

Notwithstanding the City Manager's wages an even more astounding situation exists for the position of Director of Municipal Engineering and Operations.

In February, 2010, the City's Director of Operations left his job to take a job in Langley. Instead of hiring a new Engineer at about $125,000 per year, the City retained a Planner to fill the position on contract until July, 2012. The contract person is paid at the rate of $125/ hr. He doesn't get paid anything if for any reason he is absent. In 10 months in 2010 he was paid $182,883. Nearly $60,000 more than the previous engineer would have been paid for 12 months!

I do not know what he has been paid to date for 2011, but if he takes no vacation and is not sick, he can make about $250,000 - almost  what the Surrey City Manager would take home. It could be much higher with overtime which is doled out at the discretion of the City Manager. This is roughly $125,000  more per year than the City would have paid a qualified employee.

So here's the point of the exercise:

  1. If those two were paid in the range they should be, the City would have saved in the order of $150,000 in taxes in 2011. That is nearly 1% off your taxes !
  2. The Engineering advice being given to City Council on infrastructure problems and policies is coming from a Planner not an Engineer. That is kind of like getting advice about how to fix your home's shorted out electrical circuit  from a landscaper rather than an electrician.

So, as I said it came off sounding a bit like sour grapes or even a National Enquirer expose. In fact, it is all about knowing what you are doing and having a Council that is knowledgeable and spends the money we entrust them with wisely and with care.