LETTER: Did planner Maturo get a proper send-off?
To The Editor
In late September, at a Council meeting packed with public wanting to talk about Cooke Ave. rezoning and broadband, Council noted its in-camera decision at meeting two weeks earlier in which they voted not to renew the contract of the City’s Manager of Planning, Mike Maturo.
Maybe it’s that there was so much other news going on then, or maybe it’s that I’ve just missed it, but I am astounded that this event has passed without any further remarks from Council or the press.
Mike did a lot of good things for this town. I had a chance to see some of that by dint of my work with the City’s Sustainability Commission and other efforts I was involved with. For those don’t know him, for over six years Mike managed the Planning Department, comprised of the building inspector and a half-time Planning Assistant.
I first saw him in action soon after he arrived; he was a driving force on the drafting of Rossland’s revised Official Community Plan (OCP), and in organizing the extensive public input as part of that process. The final OCP includes lots of material from the Vision to Action process that asked Rosslanders where they wanted to be 25 years hence. The result is a plan that is visionary, and serves as a solid guide to City policy.
Mike spearheaded the expansion of the in-town trail system through the approval of the Rossland Active Transportation Plan. Every time you hit the Louie Joe trail or the Centre Star trail, or the rest of the 5km of in-town trails, think of Mike. Almost $100 thousand of the budget for that work came from grants that he brought in.
He introduced key amendments to the City’s zoning by-laws to increase density and affordability in Rossland housing: allowing secondary suites throughout town, reducing front/rear set-backs from 7m to 4m, and allowing easier development on small-lots. The new zoning by-law that he brought to Council in 2011, after a year of public information meetings, limited sprawl by encouraging higher in-town density and preserving the town’s peripheral green belt.
He played a huge role in the Columbia Washington project. If you like the look of the street as it is now – irrigated maples, LED lighting, planted bump-outs, bike racks, benches, cool paving – you can thank Mike for the major hours he spent sitting in the Miners’ Hall at design charettes, and the work he did to incorporate that input and his ideas into the final design.
How about the new parking beside the Thrift Store and behind the Post Office, or the expanded parking behind the Credit Union? Again thank Mike for those ideas. And while you’re at it thank him for getting the grants and shepherding the process of installing electric vehicle charging stations by the Thrift Store, making Rossland an EV charging oasis along the number 3 highway.
Mike was also the point person for the Community Wildfire Protection Plan – the plan whereby the City got some $400,000 in Provincial money to brush the areas surrounding Rossland to reduce fuel and the risk of damage to the town from forest fires. This was in part an offshoot of another project in which he was heavily involved – the CBT Communities Adapting to Climate Change Initiative, on which I worked with him closely.
Mike served as an essential guide and partner with those of us working to build a skatepark in the old Emcon lot. He shared and encouraged our vision of this jewel in the heart of town as transformed from a wasted asphalt storage yard into a civic plaza.
And of course he did the day-to-day grunt work of reviewing building applications, dealing with developers, writing reports to Council, helping ensure respect for the OCP in Council decisions, etc. The Planning department did over 100 building permits last year by my calculations – more than any year since 2006. He brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funding.
Mike left some good legacy in this town. His removal from City Hall, and the unceremonious manner in which it was done (not even a thank you?), are at odds with that record of service.