No agreement on future of Albion flats

SmartCentres submitted its own plans for commercial and industrial development on the west side of 105th Avenue in the Albion flats, although some on council think that land should be preserved.

SmartCentres submitted its own plans for commercial and industrial development on the west side of 105th Avenue in the Albion flats, although some on council think that land should be preserved.

There’s no consensus in the community, so all four options for Albion flats should go to the Agricultural Land Commission for comment.

Doing otherwise would have been imprudent because it could mean ruling out a possible development option, says consultant Mark Holland.

His 28-page report reviewed by Maple Ridge council on Monday sketches out scenarios that came out of open houses, brainstorming sessions and meetings that took place last fall on how to develop the 131 hectares at Lougheed Highway and 105th Avenue.

“Forwarding all four scenarios will accurately reflect what was heard from all groups at the public forums and will enhance the usefulness of feedback from the ALC,” he says in his report.

After that, the district will know where the commission stands and then can write its plan around that.

The scenarios are based on concepts that would see intensive development involving shopping malls and light industrial, or alternatively little development on the fields west of 105th Avenue – paired with two scenarios for the east of 105th Avenue, one that emphasized recreational development, the other that featured a mix of recreation, light industry and commercial.

Depending on what’s agreed on, Coun. Al Hogarth says the area has the potential to make Maple Ridge unique while satisfying most needs.

“I believe there’s a middle ground.”

The issue was back on the agenda Tuesday, when council was to discuss whether to go along with the recommendation or submit other options to the land commission.

Coun. Linda King favoured sending Holland’s four scenarios to the commission and wondered if Walmart would ever come to Maple Ridge, given that the company is building in Mission and Port Coquitlam.

How would any development on the east side of 105th Avenue affect drainage of the agricultural fields on the west side? asked Coun. Mike Morden.

He wanted discussion of some long-term plans on how to connect Albion flats on the north and south sides of Lougheed Highway, as well as some discussion about a new West Coast Express station at the former location of the Albion ferry.

“We need a major transportation stop in there to make this work.”

But the welfare of Maple Ridge’s downtown has to come first, “because we can kill the downtown if we don’t do it right.”

Along with Coun. Judy Dueck, Morden said council should consider all the correspondence it has received in recent years about the Albion flats, in addition to that which was given during the area planning process.

“In my view, we’ve wasted our time in examining the west side,” said Coun. Craig Speirs, who is concerned about long-term traffic congestion created by a mall in the area.

“Large format shopping centres create huge traffic demand,” he added.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, though, wanted to know how development of each scenario would affect the district’s budget and wanted a rough cost break-down of each option.

A big-box mall wasn’t an option for Dueck. “I would not support that. That is not an experience that would be attractive for our community.” However, a small proportion of residential in a village-type mall could work, she added.

Sending forward a proposal that doesn’t consider the commission’s mandate could waste taxpayers’ dollars, said Holland, adding the trend is towards a more restrictive land commission that can turn a “blind eye” towards community benefit in order to protect farmland.

But it’s rare to have the commission so interested in a case, he pointed out.

He estimated the ALC could give its response by May, which would then allow the district to write its final concept plan for the Albion flats area. An open house would likely be part of that process. Once the plan is confirmed, the district would make a formal application to the commission for land exclusions, possibly by mid-summer or fall.

Holland called the option that proposed leaving the west side of 105th mostly untouched, and the east side developed with up to 400,000 sq. feet of “significant commercial mixed use,” a “pragmatic option.”

Building on both sides of 105th, however, could create up to two-million square feet of retail space, which could take decades to do and have an “estimable” impact on downtown.

Monday’s meeting left farmer and Albion flats landowner Steve Wynnyk frustrated. “It seems like everybody wants me to keep the land as a park at my expense.”

All of Albion flats should be released from the agricultural reserve or none of it, he added.

Developing the east side of 105th would just increase flooding problems for his fields on the west side, he added.

Maple Ridge News

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