Albion Flats back on agenda

Questions still unanswered about big fields in central Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge council is going back five years and dusting off some musty planning studies of Albion flats.

Monday, council supported staff’s idea of revisiting four scenarios created by a community brainstorming process in 2010 for the lands along Lougheed Highway and 105th Avenue.

Doing so can save time and money, as council takes another try at planning for the area after a land swap between SmartCentres developers and the city was cancelled following November’s civic election.

“I would just love to go back to the 2010 concept plan and build on that,” said Coun. Craig Speirs.

The four scenarios, two for either side of 105th Avenue, proposed a mix of recreational, agriculture and light industrial/commercial.

However, council of the day held another meeting during which business groups were represented and decided to submit a plan calling for development of the majority of the flats, which total about 130 hectares (329 acres), most of which is in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

That was rejected by the Agricultural Land Commission, saying only that the east side of 105th could be developed, and that could only happen if drainage is improved on the west side for farming.

“The biggest value for the community … are the recreational opportunities and we want to be sure we celebrate and it’s an expectation we have to realize,” Speirs said.

He favours putting shopping areas closer to where the homes are on 240th Street.

Albion flats contains Planet Ice, Golden Ears Winter Club, and the Albion Sports Complex. Maple Ridge recently received $500,000 to replace two gravel fields with artificial turf.

Coun. Corisa Bell wanted to ensure whatever scenarios are sketched out to the public are realistic.

Would the city still consider a shopping mall if there’s no demand for one after the previous developer backed away, she asked.

Many questions need answering when planning the area, said Coun. Gordy Robson, who wanted the economic development department to lead the project.

“We need to have a plan for transit. I don’t see it here.”

Plus there’s nothing about an overpass over the CP Railway line, connecting the south and north sides of Albion.

“We don’t know if there’s a West Coast Express [stop]. We don’t know where it’s going to be.”

Such questions are the point of bringing the proposals back to council, said planner Jim Charlebois.

Public works general manager Frank Quinn said the city’s transportation plan does identify a railway overpass and West Coast Express station for the Albion area, though there’s no location yet.

Drainage is a significant issue, added Mayor Nicole Read. The area is within the Fraser River flood plain.

With council agreeing to use the 2010 scenarios as a basis for planning, workshops can take place over the next several months, followed by an open house on a draft concept plan. An application to the Agricultural Land Commission to exclude land from the agricultural reserve can follow.

The commission has said it would support excluding land on the east side of 105th Avenue in return for improving drainage for farming on the west side, a project which could cost $2 million.