Christopher Trevelyan says he is confident that the newly-elected White Rock council will be able to find ways to work together through the next four years.
“I’m happy with everyone on council,” said the city councillor, re-elected for a second term in September’s civic vote, while acknowledging that there are some strong and outspoken personalities around the table.
“We might have disagreements, but I’d like to think that, at the end of the day, we’ll vote our different ways and then go out and have a beer together,” he added.
“There will always be disagreements and different ideas of what should be done. And that’s one of the reasons we have a council, anyway, instead of one mayor making all the decisions alone.”
Trevelyan, a teacher at Earl Marriott Secondary, said he sees two major challenges ahead for the new council term.
“Growth and development is always going to be a challenge for a city our size. And taxation, I think, will be another challenge, because of our limited tax base — with no industrial, all we have is residential property taxes — and our expectations of services.”
As a one-term veteran of budget deliberations, Trevelyan said he’s well aware that a council wish-list of “everything we want to do” can result in projected tax increases that rapidly ratchet upwards in percentile points.
“Hard choices have to be made,” he said.
Trevelyan said he and his running-mate Coun. Anthony Manning (who missed being re-elected this year by a slim margin) had assumed that the issue of public concern over building heights, which helped elect them and a Democracy Direct majority in 2018, had been largely laid to rest.
During its first months in office, that council had acted swiftly to ensure that highrises remained confined to the town centre and that building heights were no taller than six storeys elsewhere.
But Trevelyan agreed that the slow — and sometimes inconvenient — pace of construction of previously-approved developments in the town centre has kept the issue top-of-mind for city residents.
“We thought the heights issue was pretty much done, but my experience on the campaign trail was that this was the issue I overwhelmingly heard about from people, from all walks of life,” he said. “It hasn’t changed from 2018.”
Most people seem happy with the Official Community Plan revisions adopted during his last term of office, Trevelyan said, and the public had many opportunities to contribute input to the process.
“I don’t think people are against development — nor am I,” he said. “They just want to know where does it go and what does it look like. Like them, I’m not a fan of spot rezoning. Giving people certainty about what’s going to happen in their neighbourhoods is important. That’s good for residents — and good for the development community.”
Trevelyan said people also want to know what the city can do to provide services for all the people who come with new development.
“When you look at things like our medical system — and I think the numbers back this up — we’re not keeping up with demand.
“If everybody’s clamoring for greater development, then I’ll look at it seriously. But that’s not what I’m hearing — people still think there’s been too much, too quickly.”
Trevelyan said he’s not going into this term with any particular pet projects in mind.
“I think the waterfront could use a clean-up and be upgraded a bit, and I think there should be some beautification of parks and road-end walkways, and there should be more done about mapping them out.
Beside Hogg Park, close to city hall, is an untreed area that used to be occupied by a house that was recently demolished, he said, and he’d like to see a community garden established there.
“But one big concern, that I think is shared by all of council, is the amount of time it takes for the city to approve building permits and development permits. When you consider some businesses are paying thousands in rent while waiting for months to make changes, it isn’t fair.
“I couldn’t imagine being in that position,” he added.
“It’s not a knock at staff — I know they’re working very, very hard. But something needs to change with our system. At the end of the day, waiting a year for a permit is too long.”
Above all, Trevelyan said, he’d like to be able to respond to the many needs of residents with a balance of experience and knowledge.
“You can’t fit 20,000 people into city hall,” he said.
“It’s my job to represent the residents of the city the best way I know how.”