Albion parking issue put on hold
Maple Ridge council has slid the hot topic of parking in Albion flats to the back burner for a month, so staff can find more space in the busy recreation area at Lougheed Highway and 105th Avenue.
A new artificial soccer pitch the city wants to build in Albion Sports Complex means the loss of a gravel field and 190 parking stalls, which could hurt the Ridge Meadows Home Show.
Cass Winder, with the Home Show, raised the issue a year ago, but the city still hasn’t told her how it plans to replace those stalls.
Lorraine Bates, with Country Fest, the farm fair that takes place at the fairgrounds every July, is also concerned because the gravel field is used for camping for 4-H members.
“At the end of the day, if they don’t find parking, what do I do?”
She’d like the city to wait until after Country Fest, which takes place July 29 and 30, before any construction starts.
“I just want them to just stop and look around at what they’re doing … what they’re risking to make other things happen.”
Some on council, at its Tuesday meeting, wanted to wait until the Albion flats area plan is complete, while others wanted to build the fields.
The deferral meant council will wait a month before approving a contract to start the design process for both a new field in Albion, and another in Merkley Park, near Maple Ridge secondary.
Designing both fields at the same time will save the city money and allow it to use the $500,000 Canada Infrastructure Grant to reduce the cost of the Albion field. Total cost for both fields, including better lighting, is $5.5 million.
If the field isn’t built by the fall, the city could lose the $500,000, council heard.
Mayor Nicole Read wanted the field to proceed, adding that council wants to find a solution to parking in the area.
“I don’t think that’s changed at all.”
But the issue has been delayed, she said.
“At some point, there needed to be a council decision, something brought back to council … to make sure we were able to get the parking.”
Both the home show and Country Fest are important, she added.
But, “We need the $500,000 and we need the field. Because, frankly, our kids need to be able to play,” Read said in heated debate.
“It’s so embarrassing to me … that we don’t support our sports teams the way we should be.”
Even when complete, the Albion flats area plan won’t be implemented soon, she added.
The city has to pay about $2 million to improve the drainage on the west side of 105th Avenue, in order to get land commission approval to develop the east side of 105th Avenue.
Coun. Bob Masse wanted the Albion flats area plan completed first and wondered if the grant could be extended to allow more time for building the new field. He doubted staff could come up with a parking solution within a month.
Council should have required the parking problem solved earlier, he added.
Winder said the issues has been discussed for a year and a half.
She said she first heard that the actual number of 190 stalls affected on Tuesday.
“I don’t know accurate their numbers are,” she said.
Albion flats has a total of 1,395 parking stalls in six lots throughout the area.
Winder is glad the city is now considering concept plans for all of the Albion flats, but wonders how long it will take for the Agricultural Land Commission to approve the whole plan and allow development in what’s now farmland reserve.
She said she’s not saying the Home Show is more important than sports events.
Coun. Tyler Shymkiw said there are other locations where the city could build sports fields.
“I don’t have the confidence we’re going to find a solution now.”
Coun. Gordy Robson proposed allowing the field to be built at Merkley Park and delaying the decision in Albion.
“We don’t have a multi-use plan for the area. I’ve been saying the same thing for two years.”
However, a draft area plan for all of Albion flats is about to come to council in a few weeks. That will create a rough, overall land-use plan, including parking, for the whole area, and will include input gained from the recent public consultation on new rec facilities for Maple Ridge.
The current Albion flats planning process began in 2010 when the community came up with four scenarios for developing the area.
However, council of the day held another meeting after which it proposed a more shopping-intensive plan.
But in 2011, the land commission only approved development on the east side of 105th Avenue, subject to the city improving drainage on the fields on the west side.
Council in November 2013 re-affirmed Albion flats as, “the priority for area planning in the city.”