Website wants to help Maple Ridge residents have a say

People may be concerned about future developments, their appearances, their density and how they fit into the existing neighbourhoods.

Worried about the future of your neighbourhood and afraid and frustrated you can’t do anything about it?

You have more power than you think, says a small group of community activists.

All it takes is a bit of knowledge about how the system works, says the group Our Neighbourhoods, which has produced a website that wants to show how to do that.

“It’s just a way of concentrating people’s attention and focus on the issues and engaging the public in problem solving,” organizer Craig Ruthven said.

People may be concerned about future developments, their appearances, their density and how they fit into the existing neighbourhoods.

But they may not know about development information meetings, hearings, and other opportunities for public input that can result in new developments having better fits with existing neighbourhoods.

“It doesn’t occur to them that they have all these options or they’re not aware of how the development application process works.

“We’re trying to encourage a culture of engagement and awareness – connecting people with the resources that are available.”

People may feel disillusioned, but Ruthven says people can have their views reflected. He cited the bicycle advisory committee as one group that can influence district priorities.

“We have beautiful neighbourhoods. There’s just a lot of work that needs to be done towards building complete, livable communities where we’re incorporating the local nature into our planning and we’re incorporating sufficient infrastructure and servicing,” such as trails, and parks and schools.

It also means asking the tough questions, he added.

“Why are we in such a rush to develop? It’s a fairly soft market right now.”

One recent success was informing people about a May open house dealing with future development in northern Albion. That drew more than 100 people.

The growth of Maple Ridge’s suburbs, particularly in the Albion area, became an issue during last November’s election, when Ruthven ran for mayor, earning 4,953 votes compared to Daykin’s 7,394.

“We will be doing things like sharing photos and stories, demonstrating how to get funding for local block parties, and celebrating all of the things that we love about our neighbourhoods,” Ruthven said.

Maps, a development updater, announcements, reminders, and blogs will also keep people up to date.

• 2011 Maple Ridge election results: