New residential development should translate into public amenities

On Monday, July 10th I submitted a letter to the editor in response to New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote’s remarks in the Record newspaper regarding the construction of a new arena.

While my letter was not published [a large guest editorial from the Mayor was published], I thought it was worth sharing with my readers. I’m still hoping to see it in the paper next Thursday.  Let me know what you think!

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Dear Editor,

The last time a major sports and recreation facility was built in New Westminster was back in 1972. Popular on TV in those days was All in the Family and Sammy Davis Junior’s “Candyman” was a hit on the charts. Needless to say, it’s been a long time since anyone at city hall has prioritized the construction of major new infrastructure to support lacrosse, hockey and other amateur sports.

“In my opinion the debate should not be about whether we need a pool versus an arena. Rather, it should be about how and when we are going to build and finance both – preferably in partnership with senior levels of government”

It’s perhaps for this reason the current debate regarding whether we need a new arena in the Royal City is a tad frustrating. A few weeks ago I started an online petition to help kickstart the project which quickly hit my target of 500 signatures. Yet since then, the people who signed on have been told by Mayor and Council to wait in line – as a new arena is in the city’s “long-term plan” for an unknown time in the future.

The Mayor tells the Record that his top priority remains the construction of a new Canada Games Pool (CGP). It’s hard to argue against this position when you look at what neighbouring cities like Burnaby and Coquitlam have delivered to their citizens over the last decade by way of top-notch swimming facilities.

Major report to council in 2010 outlines options to replace Canada Games Pool. But there are still no shovels in the ground. Click on image to download.

If fact, a report delivered to City Hall back in 2010 said it was imperative we do something with the CGP as soon as possible. However, seven years later there are still no shovels in the ground. One can only imagine how long a major project would take to get built if it wasn’t a top political priority.

Supporting a new Canada Games Pool should not mean we have to wait another couple of decades before we see a new arena. In my opinion the debate should not be about whether we need a pool versus an arena. Rather, it should be about how and when we are going to build and finance both – preferably in partnership with senior levels of government.

If City Hall is going to continue to green light large residential development projects, a direct benefit should be new and improved public amenities. This is imperative if we are to maintain our position as a great place to live while at the same time accommodating thousands of new residents who will call New Westminster home in the years to come.