Developing Albion flats first priority for Maple Ridge mayor

Development of Albion flats is the top job for the new council, elected Saturday after voters gave Ernie Daykin a second mandate

Ernie Daykin was elected to a second straight term as Maple Ridge mayor on Saturday.

Ernie Daykin was elected to a second straight term as Maple Ridge mayor on Saturday.

For Ernie Daykin, there is no Plan B.

If the Agricultural Land Commission snubs its nose at Maple Ridge’s hopes for Albion flats and decides the land at 105th Avenue and Lougheed Highway should remain farmland forever – council will have to deal with that.

“We’ll wait for the comments,” the mayor-elect said Thursday.

Hopefully, the ALC will be back shortly, he added.

Within days, according to the commission.

Development of Albion flats is the top job for the new council, elected Saturday after voters gave Daykin a second mandate, installed two newcomers Corisa Bell and Robert Masse, and returned four incumbents.

Once the land commission has commented on the district’s draft plan for the flats, which calls for commercial, recreational and industrial development of most of the property on both sides of 105th Avenue, council can write up more details and, perhaps, make an application for excluding some of the land from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

“I haven’t presupposed what it’s going to be.”

Whoever makes the application, whether it’s land owners or the district – Daykin isn’t sure at this point – has to get it right.

Agriculture Minister Don McRae has ordered a moratorium on repeat applications, so developers have to wait at least five years before resubmitting an application to take land out of the reserve.

“That’s one big piece of work.”

During the election, it became clear people want more shopping options, although where, wasn’t exactly clear.

That’s why the municipality continues to nurture its relationship with Target Corp., the Minneapolis-based company that bought out Zellers leases across Canada earlier this year. The Maple Ridge’s Zellers is on Target’s conversion list, with possible expansion of the anchor store in Haney Place Mall for 2013.

The planning department continues to nudge that process along, Daykin said.

Attracting such enterprises, such as Thrifty Foods, which moves into the other end of the mall next year, takes effort, he explained.

“If you want something, you have to work hard at it.”

When he learned that Target bought Zellers, Daykin fired off a letter to Target headquarters, sent in a promotional package and noted he’s a huge Minnesota Vikings fan. Daykin usually drinks his coffee from a Vikings’ mug during Monday council workshops.

Next to a revived Haney Place Mall, Daykin’s got high hopes for the three acres of slum housing the district bought last year on Selkirk Avenue. That’s just been cleaned up and is ready to go to market.

“Once we give folks some parameters, I don’t think there will be any shortage of interest in that.”

Two other projects are at least on Daykin’s to-do list for the next three years. First is taking inventory of commercial and industrial land in Maple Ridge. For him, the next step is writing a plan for the property to the south of Albion flats, the ignored industrial land on river side of Lougheed Highway, everything between the old ferry terminal and Kanaka Creek Regional Park.

“We heard one thing loud and clear during the election process, people want the opportunity to work closer to home.”

Then there’s TransLink, over which he took a lot of grief for supporting a two-cent-a-litre gas tax as part of the financial plan.

Daykin is awaiting a review of the ridership of West Coast Express, which he hopes will prove the case for expanding beyond the five rush-hour trains that run only on weekdays.

RapidBus too is slated to connect Coquitlam to downtown Maple Ridge, one day.

“There’s no date on it,” he says.

Daykin concedes, the district needs to sharpen its communication skills to suburbanites who await roads, sidewalks, shops and parks. The strength of that criticism surprised him during the election.

Maybe Maple Ridge should build the roads and sidewalks sooner and let the houses follow, although that risks taxpayer money if the development doesn’t happen and the dollars don’t flow, he suggested.

With memory of the campaign fading, Daykin remembers people telling him he was crazy for advertising and asking why he was putting up signs, when they thought he had an easy win.

Halfway through the campaign, Craig Ruthven entered the race and gave Daykin a run for his money, taking 4,953 votes to the mayor’s 7,394.

Daykin wasn’t surprised. He told him on election night he was one of the few that didn’t underestimate him.

But this election didn’t match the excitement of 2008, when Daykin ran for the first time and knocked off incumbent Gordy Robson and well-known MLA Michael Sather.

Unlike three years ago, council has two new members, Corisa Bell and Bob Masse, after Craig Speirs was defeated and Linda King retired.

Daykin expects the new council to work well. Masse “is one of those quiet guys who works in the background.”

Bell is “full of vim and vigour.”

They have their work cut out for them, he said earlier.

“It’s just not a simple yes or no, black or white business.”