Top 10 North Van news stories in 2011
1 Body found in Kirkstone Park, charges laid
The North Shore’s first homicide investigation of 2011 shook the otherwise quiet District of North Vancouver in February when a body wrapped in plastic was found in Lynn Valley’s Kirkstone Park.
The body was identified as Jennifer Ferguson of Surrey. Charged with one count of manslaughter was Harvey Frank Bracken, 48, also of Surrey.
Police said Ferguson and Bracken had been in a relationship for about one year. Ferguson was last seen in Surrey on Jan. 22 and was reported missing on Jan. 30.
Dale Carr, then spokesman for the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said the body had been in the park for four days before it was discovered.
Police believe Ferguson was killed in Surrey and dumped in the park. Bracken, added police, had been working within one kilometre of Kirkstone Park on a construction job around the time of the murder.
Carr told reporters that IHIT began zeroing in on Bracken within 48 hours of discovering the body and trailed him for four days before arresting him at a house in Burnaby.
2 Saxton tops polls in North Van
The 2011 federal election was rife with storylines — the drop of the Liberal party to third place for the first time in its history, the ascension of the NDP into the role of Official Opposition and the majority government finally bestowed upon the Conservatives after three elections of trying.
Results in North Vancouver played a role in the latter, as Conservative Andrew Saxton was re-elected handily.
Less than two hours after the polls closed, cheers erupted from Lower Lonsdale’s Anatoli Souvlaki when CBC declared Saxton the winner. Saxton received 28,998 votes, slightly more than 48 per cent of all votes cast in the riding. His closest competitor, Liberal candidate Taleeb Noormohamed, lost by more than 11,000 votes.
After addressing the crowd in attendance at the restaurant, Saxton told The Outlook he believed his campaign resonated with voters because of the Conservative’s focus on the economy and the infrastructure upgrades he was able to bring to the riding.
“It’s been an honour to be the Member of Parliament for the last two and a half years and I look forward to the next four years,” he said.
3 The Low Level Road debate
Some lobbied for the benefits of expanded port and rail facilities, while others railed against the redesign of a road that would come within steps of their property line.
And therein lies the community factions weighing in on the potential overhaul of the Low Level Road.
Port Metro Vancouver, spurred by an infrastructure grant from the federal government, introduced plans for a redesigned Low Road early last year. Those plans included an elevated road, new overpasses at St. Patrick’s Avenue and the Neptune/Cargill terminals, new bike lanes and realigned connections with the Spirit Trail.
Due to a lack of information and community engagement, City of North Vancouver council approved only the Neptune/Cargill overpass in June. In July, PMV returned to city hall and received $1 million from council to help pay for a slope stability analysis for the earmarked work, with the caveat that the port do a better job engaging residents about the plan.
Representatives from the port are expected back in council chambers this spring, at which point city council will revisit the Low Level Road redesign and decide whether or not to pursue the job.
4 A growing concern
In October The Outlook brought you the under-reported story of a report circulating among Metro Vancouver municipalities warning of the repercussions of a massive influx of non-aboriginal people onto First Nations reserves.
The issue is of particular relevance on the North Shore where large residential developments are planned on Squamish Nation land.
Because of the North Shore’s unique geography and abundance of municipal boundaries, the governments of North Vancouver, West Vancouver, the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations will have to re-examine their service agreements, taxation and voting rights to meet the demands of the future population boom.
The initial report written by the Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee warned that an influx of non-aboriginal residents onto reserve lands served by a broader municipality could destabilize both the ruling band council government and that of their service-provider municipality..
5 The HST vote
The time leading up to the referendum, and the eventual repealing of the Harmonized Sales Tax was not just a big story on the North Shore — it polarized the province.
Voices from both the for and against camps were prevalent on the North Shore and The Outlook spoke to both as British Columbia mulled the future of the oft-discussed tax.
Restaurateurs in both North and West Vancouver, for instance, spoke of how the HST made it harder for people to eat out, but also warned of the compounding effect tougher drinking and driving laws had on their restaurants.
Prior to the tax’s eventual repeal, Dundarave Fish Market owner Kim Van Sickel summed up her position on the situation like this: “Something has to be done to help the industry because restaurants are hurting big time. We were just tax collectors doing what we were supposed to do, but we’ve paid the price, too.”
Seniors in West Van were also critical. Former Outlook reporter Rebecca Aldous met with seniors at a fitness class who expressed their concern over the increasing cost of vitamins and groceries.
North Vancouver small business owner Dave Smith, however, praised the positive effects his business enjoyed as a result.
“I’m one small company and I’m hiring, providing jobs. It’s a good feeling, giving someone their start,” said Smith, noting he was able to increase his web presence, as well, because of a $2,000 tax credit given to businesses under the HST.
6 An appeal for justice
This July, after languishing in prison for nearly 17 years, convicted triple murderers Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay finally had their appeal heard in a Washington State court.
In 2004, a judge sentenced the former West Vancouver residents to three consecutive 99-year life sentences each for murdering Rafay’s mother, father and sister in 1994.
The best friends have always maintained their innocence — and they’ve now got some new high-profile supporters, including Innocence International, a Canadian-based advocacy led by Rubin
“Hurricane” Carter, and American DNA expert Greg Hampikian, a forensic biologist and director of the Idaho Innocence Project.
Burns’s sister Tiffany has always believed her brother and his friend Atif were wrongfully convicted of the gruesome murders. In 2004, she released a documentary exposing the controversial tactics used in the RCMP’s so-called Mr. Big operations that have undercover police officers posing as criminals in order to extract confessions from suspects — the same ruse used to ensnare Burns and Rafay in North Van after the murders.
Speaking to The Outlook in July, Tiffany said her family is “cautiously optimistic” about the appeal hearing.
“I’m looking forward to justice finally being done,” she said.
A decision is expected in the next several months.
7 The District’s new Official Community plan sparks debate
Like the discussion that surrounded the proposed marijuana dispensary in Deep Cove, District of North Vancouver residents packed district hall this year to offer their opinions on the municipality’s new OCP.
The sweeping document, which forecasts the future of the district until 2030, was praised by some and criticized by others particularly for its attempts to add density in various areas — Lynn Valley being one such example.
Don Peters, of the Community Action Committee, lauded council’s work, saying it “gives hope for the younger generation” to stay and live in the dis
Others, however, called the plan “too big” and “too fast.” Detractors said density will alienate longtime district residents who moved to the area for the “neighbourhood feel.”
Others worried about the effects to traffic and the environment from adding new residents. Traffic along Marine Drive, for example, was listed as a concern, in particular the detrimental impact of increasing exhaust fumes on homes situated near the busy road.
After two discussion sessions, district council eventually adopted the plan in late June.
8 Up in Smoke: Pot dispensary rankles residents
Rarely does an issue fill the seats in District of North Vancouver council chambers but when Deep Cove resident Ken Starr attempted to open a medicinal marijuana dispensary last spring, supporters and detractors of his project came out to 355 W. Queens Rd. in droves.
Many, including members of council, were shocked when they heard of Starr’s idea to open a dispensary at 4266 Mount Seymour Pkwy.
Dozens of Deep Cove residents expressed concern of what they felt was too obvious a presence of drugs in the community, while council pondered whether the establishment of a dispensary was the best use of district land.
After hours of hearing both sides of the debate share their views, council decided against allowing Starr to open his business.
“I’m rather disappointed in the federal government for not helping more but it is a federal decision,” said Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn, prior to council’s vote on the issue.
“Everyone on council can appreciate the pain and suffering of people who were here last week. But politics is all local and people want us to ensure land is used appropriately.”
In an interview with The Outlook after council made its decision, Starr responded with: “The district missed a huge opportunity to help and educate people. They passed the buck. I don’t think anyone in there has a soul.”
9 Three-peat: All seven DNV council members re-elected
On Nov. 19, District of North Vancouver voters handed their mayor and council a clear mandate for three more years.
All seven incumbents including mayor Richard Walton were handily swept back into power from a field of 14 candidates.
Returning to their chairs on council were Robin Hicks, Mike Little, Doug MacKay-Dunn, Lisa Muri, Roger Bassam and Alan Nixon, while Cyndi Gerlach, Mike McGraw, Franci Stratton and Barry Forward were elected to the district school board.
Voter turnout was once again low on the North Shore, with the area posting some of the lowest numbers in the province.
But the worst offender of the North Shore municipalities was North Vancouver district, with a total turnout of 20.96 per cent of the electorate or just 12,675 of the district’s 60,450 eligible voters.
10 Mussatto wins third term as mayor, Bell is back
Nov.19 was a busy day for B.C. municipalities as voters, bureaucrats and council watchers waited in earnest to see who would represent them in council chambers across the province.
In the City of North Vancouver, a few major storylines played themselves out. Mayor Darrell Mussatto, who supported three council candidates in the election, failed to gain a majority on council.
Longtime North Vancouver politician Don Bell returned to politics after topping the polls in the city, while Bob Fearnley failed to retain his seat after five terms on council.
In the race for school board trustee, one vote separated Christie Sacré and Chris Dorais. Dorais, a CNV trustee from 2005-2008, filed an application in North Vancouver provincial court requesting a recount of the election results, which originally placed Sacré ahead of him by a mere three votes.
After a manual recount on Nov. 28 — administered by scrutineers, CNV’s solicitor and chief electoral officer Robyn Anderson — Sacré was declared the winner again, for the second time in two weeks.
Sacré celebrated her victory at the first North Vancouver school trustees seminar the next day.
“I feel like I can attend now,” she said.