Development review committee?

Letter writer says all the hullabaloo and criticisms of Coun. Hogarth and his profession are way off base.

Editor, The News:

Re: ‘Roll back stream setbacks’ (The News, April 16).

The motion by Coun. Al Hogarth to go to the riparian area regulations system of site review is felt to have strong merit for the district to consider as it continues to move forward with the review of more development proposals near watercourses.

As I understand it, under the RAR system, for development applications submitted to the district, applicants would be required to hire a qualified professional, such as a registered professional biologist  to conduct field examinations and to provide a report with recommendations, based on actual site conditions.

It has also been reported that Maple Ridge council is considering a review of the present committee structure.

One idea might be to consider the establishment of a development review committee as part of the development applications reviews process.

A development review committee could be comprised of knowledgeable citizens and include representatives of various community stakeholders, including environmental organizations in the community.

Members of the committee would be appointed by council to act in a peer capacity based on their background, skill set and experience.

Their ranks could be supplemented by environmental staff of other government agencies.

In regards to a development application, the development review committee could review the biologist’s report accompanying an application and a recommendation on the biologist’s findings related to the actual conditions of the watercourse, and particulars of the development application could be made to council.

Current information on the condition of a watercourse would help council  make better decisions

In my view, any moves by the district to facilitate discussion with interested people from the community early on in the process, through enabling greater participation by the public through an improved committee structure, would bring greater transparency and objectivity to the reviews of development applications at municipal hall, and are significant and positive steps for Maple Ridge.

From my perspective, all the hullabaloo and criticisms of Coun. Hogarth and his profession are way off base.

I feel the community is fortunate to have an elected official that is knowledgeable about responsible sustainable development and capable of explaining what he knows is true to anyone with an open mind who wants to know and understand why RAR is used so effectively and successfully in other communities.

In closing, in more than 25 years that I have been working in planning and development, I have never seen a case where a biologist has ever made a recommendation that has harmed the environment.

Bruce McWilliam