Opinion

Name change won’t make difference

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If you put much stock in the utterances of municipal bureaucrats, Maple Ridge is about to hit the big time and it’s all because we’re about to become a city, if the provincial government approves the change in status.

Sandy Blue, Maple Ridge’s economic development manager, said the switch to city status will make Maple Ridge more marketable to far flung places, where they think Pitt Meadows is bigger than Maple Ridge because it’s a city.

Blue’s statement might well be true, but she forgot to add that Pitt Meadows has probably attracted more development because of its location, easy access to major transportation routes, the availability of suitable sites and the attitude of its staff and council, not because of its status as a city.

The official status of any district is not determined by the qualifications or attitude of its bureaucrats; otherwise, Maple Ridge might be forced to revert all the way back to village status.

The size or population of any town, city or municipality is almost certainly not the most important determining factor in why developments or industries are located in any particular area.

While Maple Ridge might have some desirable locations available for commercial or residential development, there is a well known lack of suitable designated industrial sites, mainly because of the reluctance of city council and staff to recognize the realities of the market place.

The handful of possible industrial sites suggested in a staff report to Maple Ridge council included only two areas with any practical industrial potential: those being the industrial park at the north end of 256th Street in Webster’s Corners and the existing Albion industrial area. Both of these areas suffer from serious shortcomings in access to major highways.

The other suggested sites are small, constrained by topographical and environmental considerations, surrounded by existing residential development or are similarly not properly serviced by transportation corridors.

Maple Ridge council and staff have only recently and reluctantly agreed to consider the Pelton property in west Maple Ridge as a potential industrial site.

The issue of the agricultural land reserve and the Pelton site is nothing more than a big red herring trotted out by pseudo environmentalists whose voices have yet to be heard as loudly on the same topic as it affects the other suggested sites, most of which were or are in the agricultural land reserve.

Blue further explained that confusion exists for potential investors because of Maple Ridge’s current status as a municipality. Gee, I wonder if that’s why Maple Ridge seems to have been notably unsuccessful in attracting any serious major economic development, despite the existence of its economic development office.

Until there is greater political strength, determination and leadership demonstrated by Maple Ridge’s mayor and council, the change in status from district municipality to city will mean nothing in terms of any major economic growth or development.

In the meantime, Maple Ridge council hopes the province will approve the change in status in time for Maple Ridge’s 140th birthday, on Sept. 14.

In addition, if the change is approved, candidates for office in this November’s civic elections will be running for the city’s mayoralty or seats on council. Will that mean we can expect a significant improvement in the qualification and performance of civic office holders because they will be representing a big city, not a lowly district municipality?

And, just in case anyone has forgotten, the civic elections in November will be the final election for three–year terms. Beginning in October 2018, municipal elections will be for four-year terms.

 

Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.

 

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