Election 2014: Time, money on Albion flats questioned

But Smart Centres paying for consultants, legal expenses, says mayor

Ernie Daykin

Ernie Daykin

Growing Albion flats could hurt Maple Ridge’s struggling downtown while it’s also costing the city time and money  working out a land swap with a mall developer, says mayoralty candidate Nicole Read.

“I don’t understand why we’re not putting that same time and resources into the town centre to make sure we get that moving.” An inventory of  downtown space could attract retailers and encourage locations where people can enjoy outdoor space.

She said it’s not certain if a mall will work in the Albion flats area, nor is the impact on the downtown fully understood.

“People coming in there, are actually taking customers away from our town centre.”

Read was replying to a question at the chamber of commerce Maple Ridge mayoralty debate Tuesday as campaigns wind down and voting day approaches, Nov. 15.

Ernie Daykin said later that the outcome of the talks between Maple Ridge and Smart Centres soon could be announced, three years after the Agricultural Land Commission rejected development of the land west of 105th Avenue at Lougheed Hwy.

Smart Centres has most of its land on the west side of 105th and wants to swap with the city’s land on the east side of 105th where the ALC said it would consider development.

Daykin disagreed that the negotiations are costing a lot of time and money. Smart Centres is paying both legal and consulting costs, he added. If  a deal is reached, the public will have input and council will have the final say.

“There’s still potential for something else down there,” if a deal falls through.The city wants light industry and recreational use throughout the area.

Candidates were asked how they would encourage economic development. Graham Mowatt said Maple Ridge has to invite businesses to locate here and said the economic development department, Strategic Economic Initiaitives, has to be reworked. “I think they have been a failure,” he said.

Mike Morden said he’d like the economic development department to be an independent company.

Candidates answered a range of questions directed to them individually.

Mowatt said the Arts Centre Theatre, where the luncheon took place, could be a good place for a new Maple Ridge Museum and archives.

Someone else asked Morden if Maple Ridge ever  would see a light rail link to Coquitlam.

Before that happens, TransLink’s organization has to be fixed, Morden said.

“But light rapid transit is a long way out.” Senior government is slow, he added.

Maple Ridge’s role in TransLink also was questioned.

Read said Maple Ridge may have to take a hard look at its membership in the Metro Vancouver-based transportation agency.

“We actually need something for the dollars we put in.” People want more West Coast Express runs, a B-Line to the new Evergreen Line in Coquitlam and community shuttles so seniors can move around Maple Ridge, she said.

Mowatt had similar thoughts, saying membership in TransLink would be worth reviewing.

“I have no use for TransLink. They don’t care about us.”

He opposes road tolls to fund transportation because people in Maple Ridge have no choice but to drive. Asked what would make a vibrant downtown and Daykin said “people are the start. Positive activity will overcome the negative activity.”

Changing parking time limits in the downtown to encourage more shopping, would require discussion with Downtown Maple Ridge Improvement Association, he added.

“Maybe it’s time to re-visit that.”

Gary Cleave however didn’t participate, after saying earlier he disagreed with an event that charged $25 (for the lunch) in order to hear candidates.

Instead, he had his brown bag lunch in the lobby of the ACT in protest.