In a mayoral debate at the Mary Winspear Centre on Tuesday, incumbent Steve Price emphasized prosperity and progress in his remarks, while challenger Cliff McNeil-Smith promised to listen to residents and revisit development strategies in the downtown core.
Six-storey buildings on Beacon Avenue have been a major concern throughout the term, and McNeil-Smith promised a moratorium on five or six-storey buildings, with a possible exception for affordable housing, until they renew the Official Community Plan (OCP). In his opening statement, McNeil-Smith emphasized consultation and felt residents were not listened to for three hot-button issues: Sidney Crossing, the sale of the old fire hall, and approving a $10 million borrowing plan to build a new one without a referendum. McNeil-Smith says frequent 4-3 split votes on council means they don’t have a shared vision.
The five-minute intermission went by FAST. Now time for the mayors. Gaff-tapped election signs to podiums. Hoping it doesn't strip the paint off. Incumbent Steve Price vs. Cliff McNeil-Smith.
— Peninsula News (@PeninsulaNews) October 3, 2018
Price said communication from the Town is higher than ever now, citing his open door policy, public participation at committee of the whole meetings, the Town Talk newsletter, having the Town join social media, and increasing mail-out requirements in the last four years. McNeil-Smith countered, saying all of the initiatives are one-way.
In his opening, Price said he would ensure affordability for families, seniors, and young people. In a second term, he would form a seniors and youth advisory committee, an affordable housing task force, and bring in more clinics and doctors through incentives.
On parking, McNeil-Smith believes there was a problem for residents. Price felt it was a consideration, but liked that the streets were full during peak times. He said the Town was building 167 parking spots by the Mary Winspear Centre, and wanted to free up 28 spots in another parking lot by Town Hall for public use on nights and weekends.
On variances, Price believed there are misunderstandings, saying they are “standard tools,” when a development comes through. Six-storey buildings are allowed in the Town’s OCP, just not its zoning documents, hence the frequent variances. He promised to align these documents. In response, McNeil-Smith promised a full review and visioning exercise for the Town’s OCP, saying “if you keep applying these variances, do you have a parking bylaw [or] a building bylaw?”
In closing, Price thanked current council for leaving the town in a strong financial position, saying the next council could “hit the ground running” and use the extra money for housing, the doctor shortage, or whatever the next council wished. McNeil-Smith said he wanted more collaboration with residents and other municipalities, and wanted to achieve growth “in a balanced way.”