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Maple Ridge needs 200 acres for jobs

Maple Ridge isn’t doing badly in providing jobs close to where people live.

According to the Maple Ridge Commercial and Industrial Strategy, 2012 to 2042, 35 per cent of people who live in Maple Ridge also work here, based on 2006 Statistics Canada figures.

“Maple Ridge is doing quite well for providing employment for local residents,” said Jean-Pierre Raulot-Lapointe, with G. P. Rollo and Associates.

Only Surrey, with 38 per cent, has a higher ratio of people working in the city in which they live.

Pitt Meadows at 17 per cent, had half Maple Ridge’s rate of local employment.

While on paper, Maple Ridge has enough land to meet industrial growth, most of that lies at the north end of 256th Street and tenants or businesses are in no rush to locate there.

So the district will have to scrape together other areas to meet the demand for another 200 acres, where businesses will find it more attractive to set up.

The strategy suggests that a “general employment zone” where light industry that fits well with surrounding suburbs be created.

Areas proposed for such zones: 60 acres in the Yennadon area at 232nd Street and 128th Avenue; the former Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure land (38 acres) near the intersection of the east end of the Haney Bypass and Lougheed Highway; two chunks of land along the Fraser River, on both the east and west sides of the Kwantlen First Nations reserve at 250th Street.

Former district councillor Craig Speirs likes the idea.

“The last thing we need is more residential. I support council on this one,” he said at Thursday’s open house.

Providing residents and council approved, “You could really make something that was attractive and employ people and fit the neighourhood.”

Raulot-Lapointe said the hope was that there would be greater demand for the Kanaka Business Park on 256th Street.

But the market hasn’t adjusted to the new bridges – the Golden Ears, Pitt River and Port Mann – improving access.

Developer Phil Cooper still says north 256th Street has a future. Cooper has a business park at the far end of 256th Street and recently bought five acres in Kanaka Business Park, where he plans to develop 70,000 sq. feet.

“I’m going to build an artisan village,” where people can live/work in their businesses.

The land is not in the flood plain, he added.

By 2041, Maple Ridge must have room for 42,500 jobs, an increase from its current total of 26,330. That will translate into a demand for about another 200 acres, says the strategy.

Identification of those areas has to start soon. Currently, only 43 acres are available.

For Kathy Klassen more certainty about a current industrial area, Albion Industrial Park, would help.

“We want to know what the plan is for down there. Everybody has a sense … that this is more about real estate and development,” she said at an open house.

Klassen runs Pacific Coast Cedar Products on River Road and wants to know if the district will maintain it as an industrial area or if there are other plans.

“The problem with Albion and other areas is access.”

She said business owners in the area were invited to only one meeting in June as “stakeholders,” to give their views on the strategy.

Klassen said she’s OK with the area remaining industrial. Pacific Coast Cedar employs 10 people who make cedar shingles for the exterior walls of houses and buildings.

“A lot of things have to change here before we attract new industry.” For one thing, transit needs improving.

The strategy though recognizes the challenges of the Albion Industrial Park, the river-front area on the south side of Lougheed Highway, west of 240th Street. Dikes have to be improved, there should be incentives for development, sites have to be decontaminated and road access has to improve. Nothing is expected to happen there within a decade.

The strategy also says that a business park should be a major part of developing the east side of 105th Avenue in the Albion flats. Maple Ridge has been encouraged by the Agricultural Land Commission to make an exclusion application. It’s currently negotiating with Smart Centres mall development company on a possible land swap in Albion flats.

Taking land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve for industrial use or converting residential land for industrial use, should both be last resorts, says Rollo.

The consultants also say that industrial land shouldn’t be converted for use by big-box stores.

The report also says that Maple Ridge has enough commercial land and that the downtown should be the priority, even for developing big box stores.

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