Condominium complexes ‘freezing’ downtown Maple Ridge land

But it's a situation faced by all municipalities, says councillor

Maple Ridge’s official community plan does not require new condo developments to have rental units.

Maple Ridge’s official community plan does not require new condo developments to have rental units.

Plans for more condos in Maple Ridge are moving along, despite critical comments from city councillors.

Politicians wanted to know Monday why a project planned for 22554 – 121st Ave., had no rental units.

Maclean Homes Brown Road Ltd. wants to put a four-storey, wood-framed building on four lots at the corner of Edge Street and 121st Avenue, similar to the complex they already built one block to the south on Edge Street.

The proposal calls for 73 condo units, six of which would be considered adaptive housing, built to allow modifications to allow seniors to remain living there as they get older.

But Coun. Corisa Bell wanted to know why no rental units were included in the strata project. But council heard that the present project was reduced in size and rental units were removed from the plan.

As well, there is nothing in the official community plan that requires rental units, said planning director Christine Carter.

Without that clause, the planning department has no ability to require developers to build rental units.

“We rely on the applicant to respond to the wish list.”

Instead, the six adaptive suites were included as some form of alternative housing. Within the 73 units included, are six studio or bachelor suites that are 540 sq. feet in size.

In addition to rezoning, a change to the town centre plan is being sought to allow a building of only five storeys instead of six, as required in the plan which attempts to densify the town centre.

That’s because, according to staff, increasing the area of the floor plan, or creating a larger building footprint, can achieve the same amount of density as building six storeys, without hurting a pedestrian friendly environment.

That change would allow any buildings in the medium- and high-rise town centre plan to only be five instead of six storeys.

Although the project has only four storeys, there are eight suites that have upper lofts, that technically creates a fifth storey.

Coun. Gordy Robson raised the issue of long-term effects of building low-rise condo units in the downtown.

“As we continue to surround our town with strata-owned wood-framed buildings … we’re effectively freezing that land.”

Any future redevelopment of that land, such as building a high rise, would require the consent of all owners, he added. “We will have to deal with that in the future.”

But Robson said he’s since been told that’s a problem throughout Metro Vancouver and will be solved over time.

Council decided to forward the application to a future meeting with Robson, Bell and Mayor Nicole Read opposed.

Also forwarded was another development application along the South Alouette River calls for double the number of single family lots normally allowed in the zone.

Damax Consultants wants to build 14 homes at 23598 Dogwood Ave.

In return for doubling the density, the developer will allocate a quarter of the eight-acre site for conservation, thus preserving dozens of tall cedar, fir and hemlocks in the rural area.

Staff recommend the project go ahead because it’s within the Metro Vancouver sewer area and urban boundary. At the same time, building the homes will ensure the ongoing “long-term protection of significant stands of mature second-growth trees in dedicated parkland.”