Fewer dollars, students, so no school

Houses to be built in Blaney Hamlet, in Silver Valley

Maple Ridge council is recognizing reality and will allow a school site in Silver Valley to be used for 30 single family homes.

Politicians made the decision by supporting a staff recommendation for rezoning of the property, saying there was no other option, because the school board no longer wants the site.

School dollars are short, students are fewer and there’s no other use for the 1.5 hectare property at 23103 – 136th Ave., a staff report said.

The site is one of three identified for possible elementary schools in Maple Ridge’s far northern suburb.

But a November letter from the Maple Ridge school district says the school board no longer has plans to buy the Blaney Hamlet site, and that two other locations in the two other “hamlets” in Silver Valley can accommodate the future student population in the area.

Long-term plans also include a high school location at the bottom of Silver Valley on Fern Crescent.

Municipal staff, though, warn the decision to allow homes on what’s called the Blaney Hamlet site won’t be popular with the neighbours.

A school in that location is part of the Silver Valley area plan that was created, “with a school at the heart of the Blaney Hamlet.”

According to the Silver Valley plan, civic areas composed of a school, park and open space are supposed to be the focus of each neighbourhood, or hamlet.

A letter from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district says student enrolment dropped by 398 students this year, more than had been projected.

According to the school district, of 1,245 elementary students who live in Silver Valley, only 747 will need to be locally placed, while the remaining 498 will go to Yennadon elementary.

And over the next year, the school district will develop a school site plan and consult with residents, along with Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. With the plan in place, property acquisitions for future school sites can begin.

But school district consultation should have taken place before the issue reached Maple Ridge council, said Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, who voted against the rezoning process.

“Right now that hasn’t happened at a very key site that people have bought and purchased,” around.

Ashlie points out the site is the best suited in Silver Valley for a school because it’s flat and closest to where development is occurring.