10 Questions With Blair Whitmarsh

Talking Willoughby, Brookswood, roads & marijuana with candidate Blair Whitemarsh…

The other week I sent a questionnaire to almost (I couldn’t find an email for a few) every candidate running for Council (not Mayor). The questions were intended to be nonpartisan, important, and focused on the future of Langley. I deeply appreciate the responses received as it would have taken these candidates serious time to respond. I hope that if you like the responses provided that you’ll share the posts of your favourite candidates. These posts are NOT endorsements of any candidate and the answers have NOT been edited. -Brad Richert

-1-

BRAD: Do you have a tangible solution for solving the highly perceived traffic woes in Willoughby, especially along 208th Street, 80th Avenue and 72nd Avenue.

BLAIR: It is clear that we need to complete the widening of 208th Street as quickly as possible.  The cost of obviously very high but there are some strategies that we could use that might be helpful. We could borrow the funds to get it fast-tracked, arrive at some solutions around DCC adjustments etc. in return for completing the road sooner, and some possible scenarios with land owners along 208th street to incentive that development.  I know that TOL staff are looking at solutions right now and will be providing more information to Council as we move forward.  I don’t think anyone denies that 208th street is congested.  I am committed to trying to find a timely solution that does cause a significant increase in taxes.

-2-

BRAD: Do you believe that road design in Willoughby’s NCPs are adequate for a build out population of 80,000-100,000? If not, do you believe they can be improved, if so, how?

BLAIR: I believe that the roads are not adequate as they currently stand. I do think the neighborhood plans do allow for more roads to alleviate some pressures. Widening of 208th Street is obviously critical. In addition, the new 216 freeway interchange with connections to Labonte Drive to Glover Road is very good. Future road improvements will be a 212 connector road off the interchange which will take significant traffic off of 80th Avenue.  I also think we need to make all future roads more accessible to safe cycling with proper cycling paths.  This will take some cars off the road but will also make them safer for those in cars and for those walking or cycling along our roads.

-3-

BRAD: Please provide up to 3 items that you believe can be improved in Brookswood’s NCPs that were missed in Willoughby’s planning. Will you advocate for these improvements before adopting further NCPs?

The Brookswood-Fernridge OCP is very different from Willoughby so some of the challenges in Willoughby would not happen the same way.  However, I would say

  1. We need to ensure that we have proper sidewalks and cycling paths on the primary roads.
  2. Only 9% of the homes are going to be multi-family in Brookswood but for those I would like to see the parking requirements strengthened

-4-

BRAD: A recent application for at Shepherd of the Valley in Willoughby was passed unanimously (absent Councillor Richter), changing the NCP zoning of Institutional/church to a high density comprehensive development zoning. Do you view NCPs in Willoughby (and soon Brookswood) to be very flexible “living documents” or do you maintain holding to a more strict interpretation of an NCP?

BLAIR: I generally hold to a more strict interpretation of an NCP.  However, I do think there are times in which a variance or changing the zoning could make the NCP better.  In most cases, and NCP is built out over 15-20 years so there is new information that does come along in adjusting the NCP might be the best decision.

-5-

BRAD: The Williams plan is moving forward with a traditional suburban style commercial core at the new 216th Street interchange. Do you believe for this plan adequately “future-proofs” the Northeast quadrant of Willoughby?

BLAIR: I do like the overall plan for the commercial space at 216th Street.  We did increase the size of the commercial space in the Williams plans (a change to the NCP) which I think will be necessary. I am also pleased about the increased light industrial space that is created near the freeway on 216th Street. This increases local jobs and increases our tax base.

-6-

BRAD: Brookswood is moving forward with simultaneous NCPs. Do you support this? Explain. Should one NCP be done at a time. If so, which area is priority?

BLAIR: I do support moving forward with the three NCP’s for Brookswood-Fernridge.  Having plans in place for future Brookswood is important in my opinion. We worked hard to get a new OCP in place and to then sit and wait for NCP’s is not helpful. I like doing three of them at one time so that we can work together on making them connect and link well together.  The requirement for services will naturally phase the development but knowing what each NCP looks like helps us to ensure that don’t repeat some of the challenges faced in other fast growing areas of Langley.  Having a plan in place does not automatically mean it gets completed, but it does ensure that when development does occur that it is part of an overall plan for Brookswood-Fernridge.

-7-

BRAD: Phased development has been discussed for Brookswood, but no mechanism is yet in place. Do you support phased development such as in South Surrey’s Grandview neighbourhood? Explain.

BLAIR: No, I don’t support artificial phased development.  I support natural phasing primarily dictated by availability of services.  Requiring a certain level of development to be completed before another NCP can start is not natural and can create more challenges down the road.  Most of the development will naturally happen first near the already developed part of Brookswood as evident by most of the recent applications (not all).

-8-

BRAD: Parking is a common issue in many neighbourhoods in Langley, yet enjoys some of the most relaxed parking allowances in the region. Should new developments have more parking or less? Are there other parking-related solutions in your platform?

BLAIR: I think we should work to make more parking available in new developments. That being said, I am open to some flexibility depending on location (ie. Close to public transit) and maybe use (ie. Seniors complex where fewer have cars).  I am also supportive of having more visitor parking in new developments. For single family subdivisions I would like to ensure that we have full 20m wide roads with proper sidewalks. This allows some to park on the roads.  In addition, stronger enforcement of the secondary suite parking would be helpful

-9-

BRAD: Higher density in Langley is suggested as a means to increase housing affordability, pay for amenities/infrastructure and protect ALR land. Agree or disagree? Explain.

BLAIR: I believe that higher density can be very helpful in making housing more affordable, pay for infrastructure, protect ALR, and create walkable communities.  However, I do think we need to be strategic about where we have higher density.  But it does allow younger families, seniors and others to live in a walkable community at a price that is more affordable than single family homes. I am supportive of having towers built in some locations in Langley (ie. Along 200th, north of 72nd etc.)

-10-

BRAD: Some communities are banning the smoking of legal marijuana in all public places. Some are restricting the use of the substance in a fashion similar to tobacco cigarettes. What are your views on a potential municipal bylaw?

BLAIR: A challenging area and my thinking is certainly evolving on this one. At this point, I would say similar restriction as tobacco cigarettes makes some good sense to me.  I wish we could restrict the manufacturing of cannabis to industrial lands but that decisions has already been decided by other levels of government. I would like to restrict the location for sales of cannabis products within the TOL and likely governed by the Province.

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