Pitt Meadows council delivered mixed messages Tuesday about a promise from senior levels of government to fund an overpass or interchange at the city’s busiest intersection.
Although it’s been deemed ‘failing’ for years, it’s unclear if relief will come to drivers stuck in traffic at the corner of Lougheed Highway and Harris Road.
On Tuesday, as council discussed amending its official community plan to spur development in the North Lougheed corridor, Coun. Doug Bing suggested it was a step necessary to spark more government support.
“We have to have this project move forward before the government shows some commitment,” said Bing, who also represents Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows in B.C.’s legislature. “At the present time, we have it moving a step forward. It needs a bit more before the province can get involved.”
Bing’s comment worried Coun. Janis Elkerton, who was one of three to vote against amending the city’s OCP, a document which guides long-term development.
“To hear that other levels of government aren’t interested in coming forward until there is development on the other side concerns me,” Elkerton said. “They already know this is failing. They need to deal with it now, sooner rather than later.”
The 50-hectare area, located northeast of the highway and Harris Rd., is currently designated as highway commercial and agriculture.
Council gave two readings to a bylaw Tuesday to change the area’s designation in the OCP to mixed employment and highway commercial. The mixed employment area, totalling 30.3 hectares, would permit a range of uses from light industrial business to hotels and conference centres.
The city also plans to create a buffer area between the Dorado residential subdivision to the east and potential development to the west.
Couns. Bruce Bell and Dave Murray joined Elkerton in voting against the OCP amendment as they were both concerned about costs and a lack of commitment from the provincial government to fund construction of an interchange. The cost of building a connecting road and an overpass is pegged at $34 million, excluding land expropriation.
The three also feel the process to push development on the strip is being rushed.
“Even if we share it with other levels of government, the costs to Pitt Meadows will be around $8 million, and that’s a lot of money,” said Murray, pointing to an overpass in Port Coquitlam at Coast Meridian, which went a $70-million project to $130 million.
“I would hate to see us put in a similar situation.”
Mayor Deb Walters cast the deciding vote to proceed with the OCP amendment, with support from Bing and councillors Gwen O’Connell and Tracy Miyashita.
“We want to drive this process and do it in the right way,” said Miyashita, echoing O’Connell’s comments.
Walters also sought to clarify Bing’s remark about a commitment from the province, saying she met with Minister of Transportation Todd Stone earlier in the day and “there was interest.”
“This proposal is in line with the vision laid out in our strategic plan. It supports local jobs close to home … it will help balance our tax base,” Walters added.
Following the meeting, Peter Jongbloed of the Pitt Polder Preservation Society, an environment group opposed to commercial development on farmland, said he believed the project was being rammed through as council was split.
He noted the public overwhelming supported a land use plan that retained much of the North Lougheed area as farmland. Council also received a petition with more than 150 names on it.
“I’m also concerned that it’s going to cost Pitt Meadows taxpayers big bucks,” Jongbloed said.
“I think we are going to have a raw deal here.”
• A public hearing on the OCP amendment takes place Jan. 21.