What changed in Albion flats?
Smart Centres’ decision to seek a land swap in Albion flats with the District of Maple Ridge, rather than apply for a land exclusion, has neighbouring owner John Wynnyk wondering, what’s changed?
“I met with Smart Centres a half hour before they went to that meeting and that’s when they dropped the bomb on me and I told them that I was not going to support them in any way whatsoever,” Wynnyk said.
“I don’t want to be impacted any more. They bought farmland, let them farm it first, then tell me they can’t farm it.”
On Monday, Smart Centres offered to give Maple Ridge 20 acres on the west side of 105th Avenue, which the land commission says should remain in the Agricultural Land Reserve. That parcel would also serve as a new location for the fairgrounds.
In return, Smart Centres would get the district’s 17 acres used for the Albion fairgrounds on the east side of 105th Avenue. That would be added to Smart Centres existing 10 acres, creating about 27 acres for a shopping centre.
The offer is the latest turn in the decade-long debate about the future of the farmland on Lougheed Highway.
Smart Centres’ proposal comes six months after council invited three landowners to submit exclusion applications for the west side of 105th Avenue, even though the Agricultural Land Commission opposes that.
Wynnyk, being one of them, said it’s “strange that Smart Centres is making this swap proposal and they were asked by staff and council to submit their proposal to the ALC and they’re not even doing it.
“The three property owners were told by staff and council to submit an application. Why try to re-invent the wheel, that they want to go down to the east end and not develop the west end?
“They didn’t do what staff told them to do. We asked them, ‘Why are you working against us?’ “
However, the Wynnyks want to withdraw 40 acres from the land reserve in Albion flats for commercial/industrial development. Their hay fields lie in the centre of the area, west of 105th Avenue, while Smart Centres’ 20 acres fronts Lougheed Highway.
A numbered company associated with Decker Management owns the remaining 10-acre strip on the north edge of Albion flats.
Both the Wynnyk and Decker applications are due to arrive at council at the same time in the next few weeks, said Wynnyk, who added the two landowners are coordinating their applications.
“We’re going to work with the land commission, if council approves.”
Coun. Al Hogarth, however, said there’s “potentially some merit in what’s being proposed,” by Smart Centres, although he wants to see the details.
He wants to ensure district doesn’t lose anything before any swap is approved.
Hogarth suggested earlier that the three property owners work together and that the Wynnyks could also offer something for agriculture as part of their application for farmland exclusion.
“There’s stuff that could happen on their land that could benefit agriculture, actually. Let’s see what they come back with, if they come back.”
Wynnyk said any development on the Albion flats would worsen drainage problems in his fields. “And nobody, but nobody, has offered us any assistance.
“The drainage has been so impacted there that it’s not farmable. We’re not taking hay off Decker’s property this year – too wet.”
He says he can only grow wild hay on the property, whereas the more than 300 acres of drained farmland he and brother Steve have in Mission already has corn and peas planted and one hay crop already has been harvested.
“So that’s the difference.”
He said Smart Centres’ mention of drainage improvements is “lip service.”