Steve Blacklock considers housing affordability the top priority for Comox Council | George Le Masurier photo
Steve Blacklock says Comox needs more housing, quicker to address affordability issues
Steve Blacklock says he was always going to run for council. It was just a matter of when.
“I thought about it four years ago and had my eye on next October until this by-election opportunity came up,” he told Decafnation.
Comox will hold a by-election on Saturday, Nov. 27 to fill the seat vacated by Partick McKenna, who recently relocated to Nova Scotia.
Blacklock filed nomination papers on Oct. 19 for the open council seat “to make a difference” in the community where he was born and raised.
“I’m a community person, a small-town guy with an eight-year-old daughter, so I’m invested in the next generation and beyond,” he said. “I would hope anyone who really knows me would support me. I’ve been meeting people who like what I stand for, which is simply a love of Comox.”
He envisions continued growth for the town and believes he can help manage it properly. And he says that growth is already shifting the town’s demographics toward a younger population.
“I see the future of Comox like trying to squeeze an orange through a straw. What’s on the other side without the post-war generation?” he said.
HIS TOP PRIORITY: MORE HOUSING
Blacklock’s prediction of the town’s growth meshes with his career in property valuations.
After earning a certificate in Real Property Valuation at UBC he worked for BC Assessments before returning to the Comox Valley in 2006 to join Jackson and Associates doing a wide range of property valuation and consulting work specializing on the Powell River and Sunshine Coast areas.
So it’s no surprise that he sees housing affordability as the top issue confronting the Town of Comox and its residents.
“This is a huge issue that stretches beyond the purview of the Comox Council,” he said. “But the solution is to create more supply and that’s something the council has the ability to affect.”
He believes the town should streamline its development application process and make clearer rules around infill and rezoning.
“We need more housing and quicker,” he said.
He would also like to see the town set clear minimums and maximums on housing density and says the developers he knows would like that, too.
“Why is every rezoning application an open-ended negotiation?” he said.
Blacklock points to the Aspen Road development where the town made a trade-off to allow the developer to add more density in exchange for including some below-market units and 26 daycare spaces.
“If I had been on council, I would have negotiated for more amenities from the developer before giving more density,” he said.
He notes that there are “zero” vacant lots for sale in the town and that it has taken 15 years to approve the development of Northeast Comox due to issues around stormwater runoff. But now, he says, the Northeast properties are zoned R1.1 that requires minimum lot sizes of 0.16 acres (between one-eighth and one-quarter acres).
“That’s too big,” Blacklock says. “Comox and other communities can no longer afford to allow large houses on large lots. We need more density than that.”
He wonders how municipalities went from post-war bungalows to 3,500 square-foot houses for two or three people. Instead, he supports the land use framework promoted by Smart Growth BC.
And while the “die is cast” for development of the Northeast Woods and the loss of some trails because it was long ago included in the town’s urban growth area — “we can’t claw that back” — he says the Town Council can still control the size of the lots and housing on them.
He says the council should increase the density in the Northeast Woods to as many units as possible and require those developing the area to include an integrated trail network and other outdoor recreation amenities.
OTHER CAMPAIGN ISSUES
Blacklock says his second top priority is to promote more outdoor recreational opportunities for young people.
Lamenting that so many kids today seemed locked into a digital world, he would like to encourage more outdoor opportunities, such as a skate park or bike park. He says there was a skate park proposed many years ago and never built at the corner of Aspen and Bolt.
He has also heard from senior citizens about a need for more daytime activities, such as a larger seniors center.
He’s also concerned about the status of garbage removal and recycling within the town.
“Why can’t our waste removal contractor stick to a regular schedule with on-time pick up on the same day each week?, He told Decafnation. “It’s clear our residents need a new purpose-built recycling center to bring their recycling and organic waste to.”
When asked about the Mack Laing trust agreement controversy, Blacklock says he was told not to comment on the issue. When asked who told him that, he said he believed it was Comox Chief Administrative Officer Jordan Wall.
He pointed out he has not been privy to in-camera council discussions or discussions with town staff on this long-running controversy.
REGIONAL GROWTH STRATEGY ISSUES
Blacklock says the next term for Comox elected officials is particularly important because it will include updating the town’s Official Community Plan and participating in a similar update of the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).
“I want to help reach people who don’t normally engage in these kinds of policy processes,” he said. “Otherwise the agenda gets driven by a small number of the most passionate people. We are all in this together. We need to hear from every citizen.”
He points to conflicts that exist within the RGS between current zoning and the kind of smart growth we need in the future. An example of that type of conflict was highlighted over 3L Developments unsuccessful Riverwood subdivision proposal.
“3L could develop their land according to existing zoning (10-acre residential lots), but that isn’t the kind of housing we want,” he said. “But we denied their greater density proposal because it wasn’t identified as one of the three future settlement expansion areas.”
And while Blacklock favors protecting the Stotan Falls river area, he acknowledges that sprawl is not efficient growth.
OPPOSED TO PARTY POLITICS
Blacklock says he finally decided to run in the Nov. 27 by-election after hearing about the Oct. 12 rally by a local group calling itself the Comox Greens, where BC Green Party leader Sonia Fustenneau spoke on behalf of candidate Jonathan Kerr.
“I fundamentally oppose party politics at the municipal council table,” he told Decafnation. “The Comox Greens is a registered elector organization and has sponsored their star candidate. I think our town deserves better.”
Asked about his own endorsements, Blacklock said there is no organized group supporting him. He said former mayor Paul Ives and current councillor Ken Grant are supporting him and that former council member Patti Fletcher has endorsed him.
“But I believe I would have their support anyway just because I’m a native son, a community person, not some doctor from Ontario,” he said.
Blacklock said he “would like to think or at least hope” that some of the current council members would have endorsed him if they had known he was running before endorsing Jonathan Kerr.
WHO IS STEVE BLACKLOCK?
Blacklock was born and raised in the Comox Valley and graduated from Highland High School. He is married and has an eight-year-old daughter.
He’s a charter member and current fundraising director of the Rotary Club of the Comox Valley, and an active volunteer with the We Can Shelter Society, Kidsport and Habitat4Humanity. And he’s a member of the Comox Valley Road (and Trail) Runners, Comox Valley Run to Beer Club, CV Rapids Junior Rugby and the Glacier Greens Golf Club.
In his professional life, Blacklock is a national board member of the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) and a past president of the BC Association of the AIC.
Age 46. Born and raised in the Comox Valley. Attended Highland High School, class of 1993
BA in Administration and Urban Geography from Simon Fraser University. Certificate in Real Property Valuation from University of British Columbia
Previously worked for Deloitte and Touche and BC Assessment. Currently employed at Jackson and Associates in Courtenay.
“Steve Blacklock would bring a dynamic voice to Comox town council. Steve thinks for himself, and with measured thought and consideration is not afraid to speak his mind. Steve has what it takes.” — former Comox council member Patti Fletcher”
“Sometimes the right person comes around just at the right time, and I’m confident Steve would be an outstanding Councillor for the Town of Comox. I don’t know anyone else in the valley who is more plugged into the community, gives his time generously, and knows what makes it tick. Comox is changing in front of our eyes, and I believe Steve has the dedication, passion and unique ability to make everyone’s voice heard at the table.” Chris Morrison, co-owner, Church St. Taphouse
“I have known Steve Blacklock for over 30 years in the Comox Valley and strongly endorse his candidacy as a councillor for the Comox town council. Steve has a deep understanding of the issue and challenges facing this community. What he brings to the table is a high level of integrity, a devotion to community service and good honest down-to-earth common sense. I cannot think of a more ideal candidate for this position.” — Dr. Chris Bellamy, physician
Election day is Saturday, Nov. 27 at Comox Recreation Centre
Advance voting will take place on Nov. 17, 20 and 24 at the Genoa Sail building in Marina Park
Mail-in ballots are available here
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