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Pitt Meadows backs off North Lougheed Connector

The consultants have recommend this concept, which pitches development of the entire 50.9 hectare site. It is the only options that will fund the construction of the North Lougheed Connector. - City of Pitt Meadows
The consultants have recommend this concept, which pitches development of the entire 50.9 hectare site. It is the only options that will fund the construction of the North Lougheed Connector.
— image credit: City of Pitt Meadows

The City of Pitt Meadows will meet with the provincial Agricultural Land Commission next week to discuss its vision for a vast tract of undeveloped land off Lougheed Highway.

The commission requested the meeting with mayor and council to help prepare a comment on a city study that pitches three development options for the 50.9 hectares (125 acres) of land, located between Harris Road and Meadow Gardens Way.

City director of operations Kim Grout presented a timeline to council Tuesday. It suggests the city apply to remove the land from its protected agricultural status by May or June.

Of the land being considered for development, only 17.5 hectares (43 acres) is zoned highway commercial. The remaining 32.5 hectares (80 acres) would have to be removed from the agricultural land reserve.

Of the three options sketched out by consultants in the study, the ones that set aside land for agricultural uses won’t generate enough money to cover the costs of building the North Lougheed Connector, a road that’s needed to access the commercial strip.

Even the third option, which proposes a mix of uses, including big stores, a hotel or conference centre, showrooms or a business park on the entire 50.9 hectares site, will struggle to meet the costs. Council has yet to decide which option to support.

If it develops quickly, money is made and there’s greater opportunity [to build] the road, explained Grout.

But councillors Bruce Bell, Janis Elkerton and Dave Murray suggested the city hold off on developing the land.

“What happens if we went with Option D, which is do nothing?” said Bell, who is firmly against punching the road through farmland and feels the city’s push for the North Lougheed Connector is premature.

Other councillors, however, still maintain the connector is being proposed as a way to take traffic off Old Dewdney Trunk Road. They point to farmers as impetus behind the 3.6 kilometre connector, which would stretch from Harris Road to Golden Ears Way.

Bell, though, would prefer the city to wait until an overpass is built and rapid bus service added along Lougheed Hwy., to see what impact both will have on traffic along Old Dewdney.

Coun. Dave Murray suggested the city would be better off lobbying the provincial government for an overpass at Harris Rd. and Lougheed Hwy. instead of focusing on the connector road and commercial development.

“Is there a real big hurry for doing this right now?” Murray asked.

“It’s kind of like putting the cart before the horse.”

Mayor Deb Walters told council she’s heard farmers who use Old Dewdney Trunk and have hired traffic control crews because the stretch is so busy.

“As long as I have been on council, the farmers have asked for this [road],” she said.

The Agricultural Land Commission approved the proposed road in July 2010, with a caveat that requires the city to get covenants for each of the properties that will be adjacent to it. Those covenants would require each property to remain farmland.

Environmentalists, though, were pleased to hear a change in tone from city council and see other councillors besides Bell contemplate no development.

“We all know this road isn’t for the farmers,” said Diana Williams, president of the Pitt Polder Preservation Society.

“There are some on council who don’t want to hold off. They don’t really want the farms.”

Pitt Meadows residents overwhelmingly supported the first option presented in the study, or Concept A, which sets aside 16 hectares (39.5 acres) for farming or other agricultural uses, like a land trust or food processing facility.

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