Q&A – Peter Lambur

Peter Lambur

1. What community involvement have you had?
My civic involvement began almost 20 years ago when I ran for a Council seat the same year Bill Soprovich was first elected. As a newbie to West Van, I couldn’t claim long tenure that was then an unspoken mandatory requirement, so I wasn’t elected but my platform included ‘new’ ideas that no one else thought about at the time.  My experience as a planner and architect told me that my new home community needed an Official Community Plan (among other things) and this idea was validated when a shiny new OCP emerged some years later.
And as I live in Ambleside near Park Royal at the gateway to West Van, there have been many development issues affecting my neighbourhood that have attracted my attention over the years.  As one of the leaders of the Coalition for a Health Community, I helped turn back the Park Royal ‘Big Box’ development.  A subsequent proposal gave us ‘Main Street’ and the most popular urban space in our community.  And there’s Evelyn Drive: working with Ray Spaxman’s team, I helped develop the area plan for this major development at Keith Road and Taylor Way to fit in with the surrounding residences (including mine). On the other side of the ledger, my efforts on behalf of my neighbourhood had no influence on the District-mandated artificial turf fields in Ambleside: a deal done without consulting neighbours (an omission that Mayor Goldsmith Jones personally apologized for).  And then there is the Ambleside Revitalization project: in 2006, I helped develop the initial character sketches for a low-rise mixed use Ambleside Village since replaced by the outsized Grosvenor Marine Drive 1300 Block proposal opposed by a majority of area residents.
More formally, I have sat as a member of the (advisory) Strategic Planning Working Group tasked with developing a new Vision & Mission Statement for West Vancouver. And less formally, I’ve volunteered with the Coho Festival and have supported the WV Master’s Mile and Coho Run for many years.

2. What are the top 3 issues facing West Van that need to be addressed in the next 4 years? What action would you take in these areas?
It will be interesting to see if there is consensus among the candidates on the top issues, but for me the #1 over-arching issue is restoring community confidence in the consultation process.  The current ‘system’ can be described as ‘top down’ and ‘one way’, discouraging dialogue between residents and the District.  So many people have simply given up and see no point in expressing their opinion in the face of what they experience as an opaque and unresponsive municipal government.  By way of example, at this week’s Council meeting (October 20t)h), an overflow crowd showed up to speak loudly against proposed changes to the building bylaw affecting single family homes and here, the issue of community consultation – more specifically the apparent lack thereof – was front and centre.  Frustrated citizens have even taken it upon themselves to form their own lobby group – the West Van Housing Association – to get the attention of District staff and Council. This situation is symptomatic of a system that doesn’t work. It needs to be fixed.

Issues #2 and #3?  Well, I guess you would have to include fiscal sustainability among the top issues.  While past Councils have measured their success in terms of zero or nominal tax increases (although this has not been the case where I live), West Van has the dubious distinction of spending more – much more – on municipal services than any other regional municipality: at $2,118 per capita (according to a recent Fraser Institute report) it’s more than double the figure for Surrey and more than 50% higher than the regional average.  Allowing for the fact that our small municipality doesn’t benefit from the economies of scale enjoyed by Vancouver, Surrey, etc., the discrepancy is still arguably too large to easily explain away.  How much we spend, where we spend it and value for money should be a standing agenda item at the Council table.

But running neck and neck with fiscal prudence is the whole set of issues surrounding development in our community.  At the Vancouver Real Estate Forum last year, the development industry highlighted the North Shore (including West Van) as a hotbed of activity.  And much of the current and proposed development activity is next to or near existing single family neighbourhoods.  And the problem is that many residents don’t have confidence in what is happening around them.  There is a palpable sense of uncertainty that needs to be addressed.  We need to update our Official Community Plan but more than that, we need to engage in continuous planning at the neighbourhood level.

And somewhere between keep our fiscal house in order and worrying about the impact of new development on neighbourhood character, there’s the issue of the Public Safety Building: a legacy of Councils past that needs to be cleaned up early in the new term.
There are of course many, many issues in addition to the above that are important. But it’s only because there’s not enough room in a limited top 3 list to include them all that they are not discussed here.  You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.peterlambur.com and attend upcoming all-candidate meetings to learn more about my views.
3. Over the past few years, there has been much talk about rejuvenating Ambleside. What are your thoughts on that?
I live within a 5 minute walk of Marine Drive. There I find my bank, dentist, doctor, dry cleaner, tailor, shoe repair, hardware store, favourite ethnic grocery, bakery – well, I think you get it: Ambleside for me is alive and well.  It offers what Park Royal doesn’t: a good mix of neighbourhood-serving retail and service businesses aligned with the needs of its customers and it continues to evolve with new retail and mixed use projects.  But could it be better? Prettier?? Home to more high end shops??? A destination for visitors????  Yes to all of the above, but there is still much to do to develop the Town Centre strategy and a master plan as the foundation for marketing and developing a better Ambleside village. (And incidentally, a Town Centre master plan should be integrated with a master plan for the waterfront to enable synergies that will benefit each area).
There have been missed opportunities on key sites to strengthen the village feel and public realm of Ambleside.  Guidelines and development regulations (zoning and building bylaws) need work to ensure that future develop adds to Ambleside, not subtracts from it.  And the very feature around which the Town Centre is structured – the major traffic arterial, Marine Drive – requires further study to balance vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic and parking needs as the Town Centre grows.
4. Incumbents:  What has been your accomplishment in the last 3 years?   What do you hope to accomplish in the next 4 years?
Not Applicable.
5.  WVD’s tax base is heavily tilted to residential property taxes.  What would you do to broaden the tax base?
With 92% of municipal general tax revenue sourced from residential property taxes and no real commercial or industrial land base, West Van is in a unique (not in a good way) and potentially vulnerable position with limited opportunities to diversify its revenue sources.  We can grow service and user fees as a partial offset, but all the low-hanging fruit in this area has already been picked.  Ditto for developer user fees. Government transfers? Forget about it (i.e. don’t expect anything from Victoria).  What we need here is to somehow grow the ‘other revenue’ category.  We need some outside-the-box thinking and civic entrepreneurship that challenges the way we do things.  I’d invite some of our accomplished business leaders to engage with Council on coming up with ideas big and small that might be leveragd to grow new revenue streams.

6. Tell us about your ideas to support commercial development in West Van.
The District should do everything it can to make it easy for businesses to operate in West Van.  For bricks and mortar businesses, we need business friendly bylaws and enforcement and streamlined permitting processes.  We should also promote an attractive environment for internet-based and home-based businesses, perhaps promoting live / work accommodation in select locations.

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