Some Maple Ridge residents will be able to tell council if they want the city to borrow just a little bit, none at all, or a whole lot – and build all of the city’s new recreation projects as quickly as possible.
The latter would mean paying a 1.5-per-cent tax increase over nine years, costing about $30 a more in the first year, for the average taxpayer with a home worth $550,000. The increases would be yearly, with 1.5-per-cent, or $30, added on each of the nine years.
Or, taxpayers may favour a more leisurely pace, a one-per-cent yearly property tax increase over 15 years, starting with an increase of $19 a year the first year, followed by yearly increases of that amount, plus compounding.
The options are part of the mail-in survey that will be sent to 3,000 homes next week as the city continues to gather public opinion on building a new aquatic centre, ice rinks, civic and cultural centre, sports fields and neighourhood centres.
The mail-in survey will be a key part of the public input because it will present an accurate assessment of how the general public feels about building new recreation places in Maple Ridge.
According to Jennifer Wilson, who’s been hired by the city to get the public opinion, the mail-in survey will give council “a solid, statistically representative survey to underpin the other community feedback.”
It also will ensure that “discussion will not be driven by special interests, but has a strong foundation from all citizens in the community.”
The survey comprises 15 pages and explains the features and costs of all the projects.
• Aquatic centre and curling rink – capital cost, $70 million; annual costs, $3.2 million. Features include fitness centre, gym, curling rink, and indoor track. Location, unknown.
• Albion sports fields conversion: capital cost, $5 million; annual costs, $52,000. Conversion of three playing fields in Albion to artificial surfaces, covered seating for 400. Location, Albion Sports Complex, 104th Avenue.
• Maple Ridge secondary track upgrade: capital cost, $2.5 million; annual costs, $20,000. Covered, outdoor seating for 500, better lighting, change room. Location, Maple Ridge secondary, 122nd Avenue.
• A 5,000-seat covered sports stadium: capital cost, $30 million; annual costs, $230,000. Multi-purpose stadium, sports field. Location, unknown.
• Two ice rinks: capital cost, $36 million; annual costs, $500,000. Entails moving curling rink to new aquatic centre, converting old curling rink to hockey rink and building another new rink. Location: Planet Ice, 105th Avenue.
• Silver Valley neighbourhood gathering places (two): capital cost, $1 million; annual costs $38,600. Entails building pavilion, decks, covered dining area, outdoor stage community garden. Location, Blaney and Forest neighourhoods in Silver Valley, on north 232nd Street.
• Hammond Community Centre: capital cost, $2.5 million; annual costs, $10,000. Resurface basketball court, reno lobby, new washrooms, terraces. Location, Westfield Avenue.
• Ridge Canoe and Kayak Club: capital cost, $1 million; annual costs, $7,000. Renovate existing building, put new boat storage area near water, build new dock. Location, Whonnock Lake.
• Albion Neighbourhood Learning and Community Centre: capital cost, $10 million; annual costs, $604,000. Large gathering hall on site to be shared with new school. Community kitchen, amphitheater. Location, 104th Avenue.
• Civic and Cultural Facility: capital cost, $40 million; annual costs, $1 million. Museum and archives, Leisure Centre upgrades, post-secondary space, youth wellness centre, parkade expansion. Location, civic centre next to Memorial Peace Park.
Coun. Bob Masse said that the one-per-cent increase is a compounding one, with each year seeing the one-per-cent increase applied to the previous year’s tax total.
As well, taxpayers each year would have to pay that additional increase of one or 1.5 per cent, which would be cumulative so that by the end of the borrowing period, homeowners would be paying another $300 or more a year in taxes.
“It’s a valid piece, but it needs some real understanding,” Masse said.
He also pointed out that many homes are worth $750,000, meaning many homeowners would be paying more than scenarios laid out.
Financial general manager Paul Gill said that the total cost remains unknown because council hasn’t determined which projects to build.
But projects will be phased in and will likely take five years to get underway and for the costs to be added on to the property tax bill.
In round numbers, the costs add up to $200 million, if the public decided it wanted to build everything.
That cost is based on surveys of user groups taken during the summer, explained senior recreation planner Don Cramb.
A previously mentioned amount of $110 million was just a sample figure used for by the finance department for budget planning purposes, he added.
The mail-in survey is just one of a series of consultations to figure out what the public wants. A separate, online survey already allows some basic feedback, while surveys of user groups are already ongoing. People can also fill out surveys at four static displays the city has now set up at the Maple Ridge Public Library, city hall, the Leisure Centre, and Planet Ice. Further pop-up surveys, online commenting and a public meeting all to be completed by March also give council an idea of what people want.
Cramb said about 70 people have replied online so far, and 40 people from a variety of sports and rec groups have responded. Another 20 have filled out surveys at the library.
Mayor Nicole Read said council will listen to the public’s feedback, with the exception of one of the projects on the list. That’s the Albion Neighbourhood Learning and Community Centre, which is a joint venture with the school district and is planned to be built the same time as a new school on the same site.
“We know, in order to be able to improve the conditions in Albion, we have to be able build a new school,” Read said.
The community centre and school are tied together and are now before the ministry.
But she wants to hear what the public says about all the rest. The mail-in survey will be a huge part of finding out what the public thinks, she added.
She said if people don’t like the civic and cultural and centre and would rather support a new swimming pool or sports fields, she’s OK with that.
“It’s [the civic and cultural centre] a really great project. However, if that’s not the project the community wants us to focus our time and our own portion of the money on then, absolutely … I’m not married to that project at all.”
Waiting on grants
Maple Ridge received half a million dollars in 2015 to help convert gravel soccer pitches in Albion Sports Complex to an artificial surface.
That was doled out under the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program.
Whether the city will be so lucky a second time, it will have to wait until the federal budget this spring.
The funding announcements that Maple Ridge is most anticipating in the next few months are those connected to the Building Canada Fund.
The Liberal government is expected to release another chunk of that money, said Mayor Nicole Read.
She visited Ottawa last fall to round up support for the civic and cultural centre, because, out of all the recreation projects, it was considered to have the greatest chance of getting federal money.
Read said the civic and cultural centre met many priorities of the federal government, such as the museum component, rebuilding infrastructure and post secondary education.
“We have a really good chance of getting funding from the next tranche of the Building Canada Fund,” Read said.
Council has already OK’d spending $525,000 on detailed designs for the civic and cultural centre so it has the best chance of winning federal money.
The federal government wants to ensure projects are well on their way before money is dished out.
“Our understanding from the federal minister is there will be another pool of funding around infrastructure,” Read said. “We need to be ready for when that next envelope is announced.”
But council has to commit to such a project and can’t say that it’s only going to build it if they get funding, Read said.
Once the public consultation process is complete by March, council will have an idea if the rest of the community also supports the civic and cultural centre.
“We really need to have a clear sense from the community … of what facilities we’re building,” Read said.
Another source of federal funds could come from the Cultural Spaces Fund. But this year, that totals only $15 million, to be spread out across the country.
Maple Ridge has also been approved for $62,700 for celebration events through the Canada 150 Fund.
The city has also applied for $100,000 from the Provincial Canada 150 program for conservation and improvements to Haney House.