Saturday, November 5, 2011

Will Graham Murchie's urban planning experience work for Burnaby?

Team Burnaby Candidate and retired urban planner, Graham Murchie is touting his experience as Chief Planner in Surrey as a positive on his resume as he vies for a spot in Burnaby City Council in the upcoming municipal election.

In his writeup for the Burnaby NewsLeader, he tells readers that he was Chief Planner in Surrey at a time when Surrey's growth rate was higher than Burnaby's is now and that they prepared for it.  I wonder if they were prepared for the all-day traffic jams that are Surrey today.  Sprawling subdivisions there isolate people from surrounding areas as walkability was an afterthought throughout the building craze that overtook Surrey from the 1980's onward.  As that city's residential development spread further out, services became stretched thin beyond usefulness, unless you were a single family home developer that needed to pave over forests without any opposition from the planning department.  The only way to get out of most neighbourhoods there is by driving out either because there are no sidewalks to facilitate walking or because the subdivision is made up of winding roads that do not offer a direct path out of the neighbourhood or both.  It's sadly ridiculous to see a bus stop post sticking out of a gravel shoulder on the side of a busy road where there isn't even a curb to separate the pedestrian from the traffic whizzing by in the year 2011.

I don't know if Mr. Murchie has ever lived in Surrey (thankfully I haven't) but if failing to build sidewalks in sprawling single-family subdivisions that have clearcut vast swaths of forested land constitutes good preparation for the future in Mr. Murchie's mind, I certainly do not want to see his "expertise" take the planning reigns in Burnaby City Council.

If Mr. Murchie wants to be considered for the vote of the discerning citizen, he will have to present actual ideas on how he will do better for Burnaby than he did for Surrey as the Chief Planner there.  Of course, mentioning where he could have done better in Surrey instead of hoping that people will not question his so-called achievements will require a level of openness that the citizens of Burnaby (including myself) would greatly appreciate.

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