Opinion

COLUMN: Albion, downtown still struggling

   - The News/Files
— image credit: The News/Files

A Maple Ridge municipal planner is quoted as having recently said that allowing mixed commercial, industrial and residential uses, plus a marina, in the existing Albion Industrial Area could polarize commercial development.

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I assume it doesn’t reflect much support for Coun. Mike Morden’s proposal to allow those mixed uses in Albion.

Whether Morden’s suggestion is noteworthy or not, the lack of logic behind the outright rejection by district planners and Mayor Ernie Daykin doesn’t make sense.

Planners and council have spent more than a few decades unsuccessfully trying to lure industrial developers into the Albion area, but few have taken the bait.

It seems Albion and the downtown have much in common in the district’s failure to attract any major new development in either area for several decades.

Maple Ridge planners, along with their senior municipal colleagues and council members themselves, should wake up to the simple truth that allowing or discouraging private sector development in any area, including Albion, is not a threat to development in the downtown.

The biggest threat or drawback to downtown development is the municipal bureaucracy and council itself.

For the record, there is an existing marina and several successful commercial businesses already established within the sacred boundaries of the Albion Industrial Area and none of them appear to have created any threats to existing downtown businesses.

One is left to wonder, if the district planner’s suggestion that commercial development in the Albion industrial area would threaten downtown development, what might be said about district’s never-ending fascination with swapping municipal land with Smart Centres in the Albion flats, so that site could be developed for commercial purposes?

Isn’t that also a threat to downtown development?

Like many other major issues which have lingered in Maple Ridge district hall well beyond their best-before-date, the matter of development in the entire Albion area has been a total failure.

In terms of urban sprawl and lack of any real common sense, development in Albion has become an outstanding example of how not to do things.

From the approval of the tiny town lots east of 240th Street to the inappropriately designed storm water management system which has resulted in huge drainage problems on the Albion flats, district hall has failed on many counts to achieve a record of responsible growth or development in the area.

As if their existing planning and land- use failures in Albion aren’t already enough, Maple Ridge is now plunging ahead with the murky business of selling zoning or density bonusing.

More pie-in-the-sky stuff can be expected from council and its planners with the re-development proposal for the former log sorting site on the banks of the Fraser River, stretching east from the Haney Wharf to the western boundary of Kanaka Creek Regional Park.

We are told the developer envisions residential towers, commercial development and a possible marina, all to be developed over a period of time.

It sounds something like the old real estate principle that if you throw enough mud at the wall, sooner or later something will stick.

Of course, according to planners, all of this would complement, not threaten, existing and proposed downtown development, not at all like the proposal put forward by Coun. Morden.

Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.

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