On the same week as Pitt Meadows was hearing “yes” from the Agricultural Land Commission, Maple Ridge got a “no.”
Pitt Meadows was OK’d to remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve for a SmartCentres development, but the ALC stood by its decision to only consider removing a portion of farmland from the ALR at Albion Flats.
In late 2011, the district sent the ALC a draft plan to develop fields along the Lougheed Highway, which are bisected by 105th Avenue. The commission has said it would support development of approximately 100 acres on the east side of 105th, but not on the west – which effectively halved the developable lands.
Furthermore, the commission said it would only entertain an ALR exclusion for the eastern properties if work was done to remediate flooding problems on the western properties.
Regardless, two owners of the western properties applied to exclude their lands, for business and light industrial uses. An ALC decision received by the parties midweek denied them.
Property owners John and Steve Wynnyk offered “no comment” about the failed bid.
The initial reaction at the District of Maple Ridge hall was not surprise.
“It seems to be consistent with what they’ve been saying all along,” said Frank Quinn, general manager of public works and development services.
He added the district did not lose anything in this week’s announcements – the land to the east of 105th Avenue still will be considered for exclusion.
He said the plan for that property is a mix of commercial and business uses. “Basically, it’s employment lands.”
Quinn is working with developers to address drainage of the western farmland, which will include detention areas for runoff water. Then the ALC will receive the district’s application to use farm land for its project.
“We’re hoping by the end of the year to have that application in,” he said.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin said the district can now move forward with its own plans.
The district supported the applicants because they have the right to apply for an exclusion, but there seemed little reason for optimism given the ALC’s initial comments.
“We need to go full steam ahead on working on that exclusion on the southeast side,” said Daykin, speaking while on vacation in Qualicum.
“There’s certainty now. We can map out that plan.”
SmartCentres has offered to give Maple Ridge 20 acres on the west side of 105th Avenue, which the land commission says should remain in the Agricultural Land Reserve.
That parcel would also serve as a new location for the fairgrounds.
In return, SmartCentres would get the district’s 17 acres used for the Albion fairgrounds on the east side of 105th Avenue.
That would be added to Smart Centres existing 10 acres, creating about 27 acres for a shopping centre. The offer is the latest turn in the decade-long debate about the future of the farmland on Lougheed Highway.