Thursday, 4 October 2012

Chamber of Commerce Speech September 2012

                                                                                                                                                                         Good Evening.  It is a pleasure to be here today.
Before I begin, I want to thank Cliff Annable, Gary Hollick and the rest of the Chamber Board for extending this invitation.

The Chamber is well known for facilitating business-to-business networking opportunities and supporting the needs of local government.  Thank you for the work you do for our business community.

Now I can’t begin talking about the state of our city without taking a moment to recognize our excellent Council  Al Campbell, Helen Fathers, Louise Hutchinson (is away right now and will be back on the 20th).Grant Meyer, Larry Robinson. This is a strong group of individuals that successfully and collectively work together and engage the community.  Mary Wade Anderson passed away in June and she will be missed.

I would also like to recognize our senior management team and new CAO.  We filled two other senior management positions – the Director of Leisure Services and the Director of Engineering and Municipal Operations.  As a Council we are pleased to have a complete senior management team to better serve our community.

It has taken us a little while to get up to full strength and to get our policies aligned with our collective vision, but we are there now and we are ready to rock and roll.

Tonight I’ve been invited to share what’s happening in the City of White Rock, the areas where we’ve make progress and our plans for the future.

A lot has changed in the past year.  In November we had our municipal election and I want to thank each and every one of you that came out and voted.  To be honest though the voter turnout could have been better.

 Sometimes it is easy to forget what a privilege and important responsibility it is to vote.  But your individual vote shapes our city and defines your Council.

On November 3 we will have a by-election and I want to encourage you to get out and vote.  Our current Council is functioning extremely well, but we have a vacancy to fill.

This is not something that should be looked at apathetically.


It is very important that we get a progressive person to fill that slot; someone who will work with the existing team and who will readily work to make White Rock move forward, not backward.

You can’t drive a car while only focusing on the rear-view mirror, you have to look ahead.  The same is true for White Rock.


We are no longer a cottage community and cannot live in in the past.  We must embrace change, control change and use it to our advantage.  We must acknowledge what we are – one of the most densely populated communities in BC – and be the best we can be.




HOW ARE WE GOING TO EMBRACE CHANGE AND TURN IT TO OUR OWN ADVANTAGE?
First, we are going to make White Rock attractive for investors.

Second, we are going to give White Rock’s greatest attraction, the waterfront, a makeover.

Third, we are going to make some changes to White Rock’s pay parking situation.


Fourth, we are going to diversify our economic situation by providing White Rock with a second industry.  Currently we have one industry, tourism.  As we move forward, we are going to make the arts our second industry.




HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE WHITE ROCK MORE ATTRACTIVE FOR INVESTORS.
We’ve already started. Just look around and you can see that this is an exciting time for the City of White Rock and for our Town Centre – there are developments happening uptown and all across the city.

In the Town Centre the AVRA is nearing completion and the Saltaire development is on its way.

Now when was the last time anyone saw two construction cranes working concurrently on two separate projects in White Rock?

Throughout the rest of the city, townhouses, triplexes, small coach houses and new home construction are creating a beautiful, livable, and vibrant city.

As older homes and small cottages are replaced by new construction, value is added to those properties and to our city as a whole.

Now I know the noise and construction dust aren’t ideal, but it is part of the growing process. Soon new residents will fill these buildings, creating a much larger customer base for your businesses.  Just think about how many potential customers will soon be living right on your front doorstep!

Larry Beasely, the former City of Vancouver Planner, who is an acknowledged authority on creating livable cities says that to have a livable community with a viable commercial core, you need at least 10,000 people within a five to seven minute walk.

Even with the large number across the street in Surrey, we have some work to do before Johnston Road will achieve that.

All these developments fit into our shared vision for the future of White Rock.

In the last three years there  were a number of community consultations on the Town Centre design plan, a design charrette, and other information gathering activities, including two separate consultant reports on the economic health of the City, that reflected the need for the redevelopment of the Town Centre.  We took all that information and feedback and incorporated it into the Town Centre Urban Design Plan, which will be merged into the Official Community Plan this year.

Coming directly in response to these studies, a new Zoning Bylaw and amenity contribution policy are being prepared for Council’s consideration.

If approved by Council, this will be a very bold move.  What we would basically be doing is pre-zoning potential building sites in White Rock’s town centre to reduce the uncertainty of redevelopment.

Through the amenity contribution policy, developers will only be able to increase height above three stories and density above a 1.75 floor area ratio if they make significant financial contributions for the benefit of our community.

We are building a more positive reputation with developers and investors, which is a good thing for all of us.

The changes that Council is considering, if approved, will create an outstanding investment climate for the City- not by making it cheaper to build but by removing a lot of the uncertainty and speculation

I have spoken to investors and they have told me that the word in the ‘investment community’ is that White Rock is open for business.

As we move ahead with new construction, we are also keeping an eye on affordable housing.

As a parent and grandparent, I want to make sure my children and grandchildren have the opportunity to continue living in our beautiful city – I don’t want to see them priced out of the market.

But we all know that our community is so much more than just a variety of housing and commercial developments, our waterfront plays a major role in defining White Rock.



OUR WATERFRONT NEEDS A MAKEOVER

White Rock beach is really our crown jewel and we’re working hard to polish it up.

You may recall that earlier this year, the City held its first public forum on Waterfront Improvements.

Many interesting ideas came out of that forum, but some of them seemed to come up more frequently than others and seemed to resonate with Council.

Subject to funding availability and in some cases approvals from BNSF and FREMP, Council is giving active consideration to the following ideas:

-       Extending the promenade westward a km to Coldicutt Ravine

-       Overhauling some of the restrictive policies and practices to allow for more activities on the waterfront, such as kayak and paddle board rentals, increased artist presence, some limited food sales, provided that the operators also have waterfront stores.

-       Constructing a children’s playground in the East Beach area providing all age no barrier fitness equipment along part of the promenade.

-       Providing more active play areas where there is no conflict with the passive use areas.

-       Enhancing the stage at Memorial Park

-       Greater collaboration with the Semiahmoo first Nation

-       Putting the power lines along Marine Drive underground.

-       Rejuvenating the Ash Street Walkway space on Marine Drive to create “Terry Parr Plaza”

-       On behalf of Council, I’d like to thank everyone that participated in the waterfront forum.



We’d also like to thank:

-       The White Rock South Surrey Community Foundation

-       The South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce

-       Tourism White Rock and

-        the Semiahmoo Rotary Club

for their efforts on the “Terry Parr Plaza”.



PAY PARKING CHANGES
You can’t talk about the waterfront without talking about White Rock’s pay parking situation.

Earlier this year there was a Mayor’s Parking Task Force on pay parking formed with a mandate to review the pay parking situation and make REVENUE NEUTRAL recommendations for changes.

Council will shortly be receiving the final version of that report and will give consideration to approving a number of changes.  Many of the changes will amount to minor tweaking, but some will be much more significant.

The more significant recommendations that Council will be considering  will be an off season, non-resident parking decal, and the construction of a tiered parking structure, most likely at Victoria and Vidal.



A SECOND INDUSTRY FOR WHITE ROCK

Several months ago we held our second Public Forum to generate ideas as to how the arts in the City could have a greater economic benefit to the City.  Subsequently, an Arts Economic Task Force was created to recommend a plan to Council on how the Arts would become an effective economic generator for White Rock.

That task force is meeting now to come up with a plan as how to accomplish this.

Some ideas I know they will be considering and that came out of the forum are:

-       To have a week long festival of the arts, centering around the International Artists Day in October.

-       To expand Painters’ Square in front of the museum eastward to allow more artists to participate and to remove the restrictions on the time of year they can display and sell their works.

-       To establish a school of arts reminiscent of the Banff School of Art and use opportunities to team up with the schools (in particular White Rock elementary), the Semiahmoo First Nation, and Kwantlen University College.

We’ve already made some strides towards improving the profile of arts and culture in our community.

With the creation of the Center for Active Living last year, we were able to give Semiahmoo Arts, the community arts council of White Rock and district, a home in the Mel Edwards building in Centennial Park.

They quickly made the building home and have a number of plans for making the most of the space they are in.  For example, they plan on designing a mural on the side of the building, while using the indoor space for gallery shows, teaching, performance arts and more.

We are fortunate that so many talented artists already call White Rock home and appreciate the value they bring to our community.

Over the summer, the White Rock Museum and Archives’ presented an exhibit that showcased the hidden secrets of Semiahmoo Bay and beyond through artwork.

Local artist Dale Byhre closely examined historical records and attempted  to document through his paintings the  significant historical events of White Rock waters spanning 250 years.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing history through this artistic lens.

This fall, a collection of Richard Tetrault’s artwork will be exhibited at the White Rock Museum and Archives.  This art was generously bequeathed to the City by Richard’s mother and White Rock resident Wynne Tetrault.

This collection was displayed throughout the summer by our Art on Display program in partnership with Semiahmoo Arts.

This year, the White Rock Library teamed up with local artist Pauline Dutkowki to produce a show entitled “Outside the Box”. Pauline’s art has been displayed in the BC Art Museum and the Louvre.

The Coast Capital Playhouse continues to produce season after season of outstanding plays and productions and is a remarkable asset to the City.  As a newcomer on the scene in performing arts is Peninsula Productions as well as Blue Frog Recording Studio on Johnston Road.

Something I am very excited about is our Public Art Advisory Committee.  The mandate of this committee is to advise Council on the implementation of public art policies for the City.

They will keep public art alive in our community.  Something that will help them do that is the $50,000 we have budgeted to spend on public art.

I am looking forward to seeing new public art in our city and to the plans and strategies that will be brought forward by our committees.



IN CONCLUSION

White Rock is in excellent financial shape.  Contrary to what the naysayers would have us believe, we have no debt, and our tax rates, while not lower than Surrey’s, are lower than many others in Metro Vancouver.

We are a highly desirable community in terms of geography and climate.


We have an active, involved population who have demonstrated their willingness to volunteer for many activities which makes this a better community.

We have a name that is highly recognized for beyond what our population size would indicate and because of the community of interest with our neighbours from South Surrey, we are also able to effectively quadruple our population size due to their involvement in the community.

 We have excellent staff and a progressive, dedicated and hardworking Council who want to make things happen.

With your help and encouragement, we can make White Rock the best place in the Province to live work and play.

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