SmartCentres pitches plan to Maple Ridge councillors
Mall developer Smart!Centres met with four members of Maple Ridge’s council last week to pitch its plan to remove land in the Albion flats from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Mayor Ernie Daykin and Couns. Mike Morden, Judy Dueck, Al Hogarth and Cheryl Ashlie accepted the company’s offer for a pow-wow sought mainly to clarify why it believes 90.9 acres (36.8 hectares) west of 105th Avenue should be developed.
“We wanted to make sure the information we submitted, they did receive it,” said Smart!Centres land development manager Nathan Hildebrand.
Hildebrand characterized the meeting as part of the public process.
“We are respecting their process and the communities’ involvement,” he added.
“We are part of the community and we are participating like everyone else did.”
Following public consultation last fall, and four options presented by a consultant, council opted for a development scenario for the Albion flats that included commercial, business and recreational development of both sides of 105th Avenue.
Then it added a recreation centre, farm buildings, a farmer’s market, an agricultural training centre, food education institute and community gardens and a neighbourhood pub to the vision.
On Monday, council decided the concept will be shipped off to the Agricultural Land Commission for comment.
Most of Albion flats lies within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
The four members of council who met with Smart!Centres believe the developer had every right to request a meeting and most obliged the developers’ request out of courtesy.
“It’s input, like we got from everybody else,” said Daykin. “They are part of the public. I listened to what they have to say. They haven’t changed my view one way or the other.”
Morden took Smart Centres’ information “with a grain of salt.”
“For me, ,I do it out of a courtesy,” Morden explained.
“Normally I don’t like to entertain private meetings of any sort. It’s all about the public and the public process. They are not going to get any special consideration in my mind.”
Coun. Hogarth did not feel pressured by SmartCentres representatives and indicated he’d be willing to meet with people on the other side of the issue.
“I rarely turn down meetings with anybody,” Hogarth said.
Dueck and Ashlie too availed of the SmartCentres meeting out of “politeness.”
“They are one piece of a huge puzzle,” said Ashlie.
Couns. Linda King and Craig Speirs were the only two to turned down SmartCentres’ offer to meet.
Speirs characterized the request as bullying. He wondered why the developer did not appear in front of council, in public, as a delegation and believes council is giving them false hope.
Land west of 105th Avenue will not be removed from the agricultural land reserve, said Speirs.
“It is not supported in any rational form of community building. It is so far away from where people live. Shopping in Albion needs to be near 240th Street. It needs to be walkable,” he added.
“They should just sell that property to a farmer at a reasonable price and move uptown.”
SmartCentres pitch for exclusion focuses on several arguments:
• That properties west of 105th Avenue are no longer suitable for farming;
• There is an ALC resolution on file supporting exclusion of an area east of 105th and there is not much difference in the properties on either side of 105th Ave;
• That the District of Maple Ridge and Albion Flats owners can offer a range of net benefits to agriculture that would offset the removal of the land from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Those benefits include establishing a trust fund to assist the district to promote agriculture or showcase the history of farming in the municipality; setting aside land for a retail store or restaurant that showcases local produce, an agri-business warehouse or a worthy farm or agriculture-related charity; improving land elsewhere in the district that isn’t being farmed; paying for improvements to local roads or agricultural infrastructure and establishing an endowment fund to support the district’s agricultural plan.