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City to assess safety of densifying in historic slide area

New tower, 520 apartments along Lougheed Highway waiting on report
Developers are looking at the wooded area along the Lougheed Highway for the first condo/commercial project, followed by the adjacent mobile home park site for future development. (Google Maps)

Maple Ridge council is proceeding with some caution on a large business and condo building project, which is proposed for a site on the Lougheed Highway above a historic landslide area.

Council gave first reading to proposed bylaw changes to allow construction of 10,000 square feet of commercial space and 520 residential apartments. It is at a site near 216th Street, combining two properties at 21710 and 21728 Lougheed Hwy. – a 0.8 hectare (two acre) site.

There would be a tower adjacent to the highway with ground-floor commercial use, and an attached lower-level apartment building. The application came to council from Bissky Architecture and Urban Design, who represents the developer.

The application will not go to second reading until a full risk assessment for the Fraser River Escarpment is completed. The escarpment is described in a staff report as “an area of geotechnical complexity.” City hall is undertaking a risk assessment to determine whether the area can be safely densified. That work will be back before council in approximately late April, staff estimated.

Coun. Korleen Carreras noted she would not support the project moving farther than first reading without seeing the risk assessment.

The escarpment area runs along the north bank of the Fraser River from 224th to 207th Streets. It extends 300m from the crest of the river, as far north as 124th Avenue. There is obviously already a great deal of development in that area, and staff noted there have been occasional landslides “of various sizes and consequences.”

The largest known slide was the Haney Landslide of 1880, which caused flood waves that destroyed property on both sides of the Fraser, and caused a fatality in Fort Langley.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge backyards sliding over bluff

The city has had the area studied since 1979.

Mayor Dan Ruimy also expressed concerns that larger apartments be included in the mix.

“Clearly when we’re looking for that spectrum of housing, this looks to be on the surface a great opportunity,” Ruimy said.

However, he added that given the average size of the units is presented at 650 square feet, the mayor asked what the size of the smallest apartments would be.

Staff responded that the project is still in preliminary stages, but the city would convey the needs of the community to the builders.

When it comes back to council for second reading, building heights, vehicle access, and other details will be provided.

The report noted the same developer has submitted two other applications for 21688 and 21698 Lougheed Hwy., just west of the subject site. This is property used for a mobile home park adjacent to the Best Western Hotel. The applicant proposes two more high-density, mixed-use buildings there.

The staff report noted the current development would be subject to a community amenity contribution of $2.24 million, to be paid to the city, based on the current rate of $4,300 per unit.

READ ALSO: Temporary homes in Princeton to house seniors displaced by flooding almost 1.5 years ago

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

Neil Corbett has been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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