Members of Maple Ridge council are frustrated by the lack of progress in downtown development.
Staff presented council with a “Vibrant Downtown” report on Monday, when discussion turned to the many drug addicted and mentally ill people who frequent the area.
Coun. Mike Morden, who will run for mayor this fall, wants the district to stop coping with the problem and solve it.
Easier said than done.
Morden wants an action plan, not another study, and for the district to be “proactive.”
The district has had an action plan since 2003.
Coun. Corisa Bell questioned where the downtown issues lie on the RCMP’s list of priorities.
Coun. Robert Masse pointed a finger at the provincial and federal governments, claiming they are ignoring the issue of homelessness.
The latter has plagued Maple Ridge’s downtown for much of the past decade, even before the Salvation Army opened its emergency shelter at the area’s gateway. The shelter is not the problem, although many believe its location hurts businesses, and no doubt has had a negative affect on the surrounding neighbourhood.
But the shelter does more good than harm. The open drug use and prostitution, thefts and homeless camps around it are signs that more needs to be done.
Maple Ridge council has done little to address the issues other than hiring private security guards to patrol the streets, choosing to believe that new benches and bollards would clean them up.
But, as another municipal election looms, it’s time to stop blaming others and do some work.
It starts with housing.
A homelessness task force in Abbotsford just recommended a housing-first strategy with an ideal target of 50 or 60 low-barrier housing units.
It wants to hire a co-ordinator to carry out the full plan, which includes other recommendations, such as outreach and prevention programs, and creating a rental bank.
Maple Ridge council could start with providing at least some ideas for solutions, rather than just paying lip service to what has become a problem that now defines the downtown.
Here’s one: get a little tougher with the unsightly premises bylaw and not allow owners of derelict properties to do nothing for months, even years at a time.
An action plan is nothing without action.
– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News