Another look at Albion flats

Council sticking with 2010 plan, moving forward soon

The east side of 105th Avenue is still being considered for commercial and recreational development.

The east side of 105th Avenue is still being considered for commercial and recreational development.

They must have known what they were doing, back in 2010, when Maple Ridge residents dreamed about the future of the Albion flats.

Because after reviewing those concepts Monday for the 133 hectares along Lougheed Highway and 105th Avenue, the current council liked what they saw.

“I think today, no member of council felt that we needed to scrap the designs and go back to the drawing board,” said Mayor Nicole Read.

Lots of work from the public went into those concepts, so it’s good to continue those, she added.

“It sounded quite unanimous from council that we wished to see north [west] of 105th [Avenue] remain agricultural,” along with some agricultural-related business taking place there, Read added.

As for the south, or east side of 105th Ave., councillors like the earlier ideas of village commercial, mixed with recreation, along with some space for a small business park.

“We’re very mindful of job creation. So it’s pretty important for us to drive jobs into the city. We don’t want to overlook that opportunity on the flats for job creation.”

But what became apparent during the discussion is the need to get bus service into the area, the mayor said.

“It’s really important, if we’re going to build out the Albion flats, we’ve got to give people a way to access it, other than by car.”

Read said the brainstorming sessions and community forum held in 2010 had lots of public engagement.

“We’re not really making a lot of changes.”

In 2011, instead of sending all four concepts to the Agricultural Land Commission for comment, as recommended by staff, Maple Ridge council sent a mix of all the concepts. That, however, included development of the north side of 105th Ave.

The ALC rejected that proposal as a basis for removing land from the agricultural reserve, stalling the planning process.

Coun. Craig Speirs said progress is now being made.

“Option 1 [an agricultural focus, for north of 105th Ave] is what we chose.

“It’s more of a blend we’re looking at for south of 105th.”

That needs more work, though.

Speirs said he’s been working on the issue for 12 years, but it’s good that it’s taken time because more possibilities now are apparent.

“I think we understand that things need to be different these days. The bricks and mortar of years past just don’t work.” Working, living and shopping are all expected to be mixed, he said.

Speirs said Bruce’s Country Market could be a foundation on which to build a commercial area. He also envisions an agri-hood,’ where homes and farms are located next to each other and food is produced.

Another part of the mix of future development could be more recreation facilities that will be added to the sports fields, Albion Fairgrounds and Planet Ice that already exist.

But no location for those has been selected as council tries to prioritize its multi-million recreation infrastructure program.

Speirs said there’s also still opportunity for commercial development.

In early 2015, SmartCentres, now Smart Real Estate Investment Trust, abandoned an earlier proposal to swap some of its land on the north side of 105th Ave. with city land on the south, because costs had changed.

Staff will now look at council comments and make some final adjustments before council gives the final OK on an Albion flats plan.

An application to remove the land on the south side of 105th Ave. from the agricultural reserve, to allow fulfillment of that plan, could go to the land commission within six months.

The commission has said it would consider excluding that portion from the reserve, providing drainage was improved on the north side.