Tax bonanza in undeveloped Pitt Meadows land

The former Cardiff farm site is located on Harris Road at Airport Way. - News Files
The former Cardiff farm site is located on Harris Road at Airport Way.
— image credit: News Files

Pitt Meadows is coupling an update of its long-term growth plan with a renewed plea for more industrial space in south Pitt Meadows and in the North Lougheed commercial area, saying it’s needed to give homeowners a break from taxes.

The study by G.P. Rollo and Associates says that if land near the proposed North Lougheed connector and the former Cardiff Farms in south Pitt Meadows is developed, commercial and industrial taxes will produce 53 per cent of the city’s revenue by 2027.

The report doesn’t give a comparative percentage for that year, but notes that by 2032, without such development, commercial and industrial tax revenue will provide only 39 per cent of the city’s revenue.

“We’ve heard from residents that they want tax relief,” said Mayor Deb Walters Monday.

“The only way we can get tax relief is if you have an increase in commercial and industrial development.”

Council ordered the report last year to update its regional context statement, which explains how Pitt Meadows’ plan fits with Metro Vancouver’s new regional growth strategy, which aims to guide growth as the region adds 1.2 million people by 2040. Every city has to update its plan by August.

Walters said Pitt Meadows already identifies the two areas for industrial use in its current regional context statement, but the report will “highlight the importance of these two parcels.

“I think it will help tremendously.”

Pitt Meadows has already sent an application to the Agricultural Land Commission to allow it to remove 33 hectares of land from the agricultural reserve that would pave the way for developing 50 ha near the North Lougheed Connector, proposed to run from Golden Ears Way to Harris Road.

The land commission is expected to decide on that next application month.

Walters said Monday she didn’t know if council would send the report to the land commission although she thinks it’s a good idea.

“It might have some sort of impact on their decision.”

A staff summary of the report says Metro Vancouver’s employment projections for the area also need updating.

If both the Cardiff Farms and the North Lougheed commercial areas are developed, Pitt Meadows’ employment base could jump by more than 130 per cent over the next two decades.

Metro Vancouver forecasts only a 52-per-cent increase in employment in that time.

Walters said the city wants to takes its time developing both areas, if either are allowed for development.

“We only have so much land to develop. We know that putting in residential costs us more.”

Although the city is awaiting approval on land exclusion, the commission already gave permission for the North Lougheed Connector in 2010. The 3.6-kilometre road would cut through farmland, from Harris Road to Golden Ears Way.

The city maintains the connector is a way to take traffic off Old Dewdney Trunk Road. But the road is essential for developing the commercial strip planned for the north side of Lougheed Highway and would be paid for by the developers.

Walters said the connector will have two purposes, taking commuter traffic off Old Dewdney Trunk road, thus making it easier for farmers to access their properties in north Pitt Meadows with vehicles and equipment, while also providing access for the mixed commercial/industrial development favoured by most on council.

Walters said the agricultural advisory committee approached council about the road. Farmers in north Pitt Meadows are “hiring flag people to get their farm vehicles out. They’re travelling late at night. They were really asking for our help.

“If we’re going to continue to protect our farms, then we have to assist our farmers by taking some of the traffic off the roads.”

She compared the North Lougheed with the Mary Hill Bypass, built for through traffic and saying that it will serve mainly Maple Ridge commuters. “It will be our neighbours to the east that will be using that road.”

Walters said that covenants suggested by the ALC on properties restricting the non-farm use of land on the north side of the road will stop further development.

But in late 2011, Pitt Meadows wrote to the commission asking that those be reviewed saying they are “redundant and likely unenforceable.”

The ALC however considers that the covenants would be valid.

Coun. Bruce Bell said the growth in employment is good news but added Pitt Meadows should be in no hurry to allow any kind of development. He opposes shopping centres on the north side of Lougheed Highway and wants something, such as an educational institute that will provide higher paying jobs for residents.

“We can be selective. We can do it right.”

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