Race to Watch: Wide open contests as pair of 4-term North Vancouver mayors bow out
Regardless of who takes home the mayor’s chain come Oct. 20, it will mean the end of an era in North Vancouver.
For both North Vancouvers, that is, with the mayors of both municipalities calling it quits after having each served four terms in office.
City of North Vancouver (CNV) Mayor Darrell Mussatto leaves behind a changed municipality after leading it through significant densification of the downtown core.
District of North Vancouver (DNV) Mayor Richard Walton is stepping aside, citing the recent completion of the district’s Official Community Plan as his cue to pass the torch.
The rare openings have resulted in an unusual surge of candidates stepping forward; keep in mind their four terms in office, Walton was acclaimed as mayor twice, while Mussatto was once.
City of North Vancouver
Traffic congestion, development and affordability lead the City of North Vancouver’s list of burning issues in 2018.
The city has seen significant intensification in the Lower Lonsdale area under Mussatto’s tenure, which has become a major flashpoint.
Two-term Coun. Linda Buchanan, seen by some as an acolyte of outgoing Mayor Mussatto, said she’s open to continued development near transit in line with the city’s official community plan.
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“I believe growth needs to be at the right pace, the right place, and the right kind,” she said, adding she’s pushing for purpose-built rental and would look at leasing city land and working with non-profits to produce subsidized housing.
On transportation, Buchanan said she’d pressure higher levels of government for more highway and bridge infrastructure, while working for more walking and cycling infrastructure.
Seven-time Coun. Rod Clark, whose campaign materials have sought to link Buchanan and Mussatto directly, is campaigning on a pledge to cool the pace of development, particularity in the Lonsdale area, and with it the “cranes, condos, cars” he said have become endemic in the city.
“Congestion is becoming unbearable. I will put the brakes on the crazy pace of condo construction and get traffic moving again,” he told Global News.
Clark said he’d require 10 per cent affordable housing in new stratas and explore rental-only zoning.
Film industry entrepreneur Kerry Morris, who ran against Mussatto in 2014, has put gridlocked roads front and centre in his campaign. He’s pitching a series of “strategic roadway modifications” to repair North Vancouver’s “traffic mess.”
Morris is also promising to lobby for a third crossing to Vancouver, and light rail to Horseshoe Bay.
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Two-time former Coun. Guy Heywood calls a third crossing and light rail unrealistic “quick fixes,” and said he’ll tackle congestion by working more closely with the DNV.
He’s also campaigning against density bonuses for developers.
“The last council voted to tear down affordable housing in exchange for luxury towers, which has driven lower-income City residents away,” he told Global News.
Businessman and civil engineer Payam Azad is also running for mayor, pitching more radical ideas like city ownership of a third of all new developments, and the confiscation of empty homes.
Hydrometric technician Michael Wilcock rounds out the ballot with a platform focused on sustainability support for small business.
District of North Vancouver
Congestion and development also form the core of the debate in the District of North Vancouver, where an Official Community Plan that targets development in four key town centres, is being implemented.
Former councillor and federal Conservative candidate Mike Little has the most name recognition in the race, and said the city is building “too much too fast.”
Little said he’d review the district’s OCP next year with an eye to cutting back on small, luxury condos, “set more modest densities, and more aggressive targets for specialized housing,” and consider the use of rental-only zoning.
He also said he would work to retain existing older, low-cost rental properties.
Little said he’s push the province for immediate improvements to the Ironworkers Bridge, and more express buses to Vancouver that connect with SkyTrain stations at Nanaimo and Rupert.
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Health policy advisor Ash Amlani, who currently sits on the district’s Community Services Advisory Committee, is heading up the district’s only slate, the Building Bridges Electors Society.
Amlani called congestion the district’s biggest concern, and linked it to commuters driven out by the affordability crunch.
“We have added thousands of new jobs on the North Shore over the past decade but don’t have adequate housing options for the people who fill these jobs,” she said.
Amlani said she supports the OCP’s plans for compact development around transit, but would adjust targets for more purpose-built rental and fast track approval for such projects.
She’s also calling for more B-line service and bus priority on roads across the North Shore, along with park and ride options.
Business consultant Glen Webb said he supports the OCP, but that the city needs to create incentives for developers to build multi-bedroom, family-friendly housing, and better transit links to SkyTrain.
Filmmaker Erez Barzilay is campaigning on environmental sustainability and a slowdown in development to keep up with infrastructure.
Dennis Maskell rounds out the ballot with a call for elevated SkyTrain on the North Shore and the end of single-family zoning.
The Amalgamation factor
Adding an “X” factor to the race is the debate over whether to amalgamate the City and District of North Vancouver.
The idea has been met with less enthusiasm in the city than in the district. In fact, on DNV voters’ ballots on Oct. 20 will be a non-binding plebiscite question asking whether an advisory panel should be formed to explore the merger.
Opinion is divided in the City of North Vancouver race. Both Linda Buchanan and Rod Clark oppose the idea, arguing it will strip the city of its financial reserves and warning it could lead to higher taxes.
Guy Heywood and Kerry Morris have been open to the possibility. Both have said the concept should be studied and then put to voters.
In the District of North Vancouver, Mike Little said he supports amalgamation, arguing it would help eliminate duplication in service and competition among each municipality’s priorities.
Ash Amlani also said she’s generally supportive of the idea in the long-term, though she added it would be a multi-year process and require the consent of both the CNV and DNV.
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