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Maple Ridge council backtracks on riverfront subdivision approvals

Another public hearing must be held, and is scheduled for June 15
ARMS past president Cheryl Ashlie at the start of the Save Our Salmon campaign, which raised funds for a potential court battle with city hall. (THE NEWS/files)

The Alouette River Management Society (ARMS) was celebrating the chance for a rematch in a fight against a riverfront residential development on their namesake waterway.

On Tuesday night, city council rescinded earlier readings of the bylaw amendments to allow a 26 home subdivision at the north end of 240th Street. They approved revisions, and now council will have to hold another public hearing, set for June 15, before then heading to third and fourth readings, and final approval of the plan.

“We haven’t won the war, but we came out of a battle feeling pretty good,” said ARMS past president Cheryl Ashlie. “This is the best a judge would have done.”

The group opposes the subdivision, and was prepared to take the city to court. Ashlie said the most they could have hoped for was the courts to find council went through a flawed approval process, creating the need for the approvals to be rescinded and bylaws revised.

Hearing ARMS legal argument without going to court, the city is now in the process of a do-over.

ARMS hopes a councillor can be convinced.

“We’ve got what we wanted without having to spend another $30,000 in court costs,” Ashlie said. “We need one vote to have this go in the proper direction.

“I hope they’re not just going to a new public hearing with their fingers in their ears.”

The votes have been 4-3, with councillors Gordy Robson, Ahmed Yousef, and Kiersten Duncan opposing the plan.

The Katzie First Nation also opposes the project, and sent the city a letter. That letter has not been made public. The city received it sometime before the May 11 meeting, when final approval was scheduled.

Katzie First Nation is pleased the development proposal approval was rescinded and moved back to second reading,” said Katzie Chief Grace George. “We remain concerned with the city’s intent to consult and engage meaningfully with Katzie within this short time frame. To date the city has not formally engaged Katzie in the matter and our concerns have yet to be acknowledged by the City.

“We will continue to assert our rights and title related to this development through the federal and provincial approvals required for the development to proceed.”

Consultation with the Katzie is not part of the public hearing, but a separate process.

READ ALSO: Katzie oppose controversial Maple Ridge riverfront subdivision

The properties involved are at 12555, 12599 and 12516 240th Street and 12511 241 Street, near Meadowridge School.

The votes to rescind the bylaws passed unanimously on Tuesday night, but Coun. Yousef said that solidarity does not mean he is flipflopping and now supporting the project.

“I’m only in favour of redoing the public hearing,” he said. “We’re sending it back, to have the proper process followed.”

“I look forward to a lively discussion,” he added. “Maybe with some information presented at public hearing, some members (of council) will change their minds.”

To Yousef, the bridge connecting Silver Valley to 240th is a key part of this plan, and it does not make sense to build the subdivision first, then bisect it with the bridge approach.

“We should put that in first, before building homes,” he said, adding there is potential the city could have to go back and buy or expropriate property to complete the bridge project.

He said a four-lane bridge access through the 26-lot subdivision might strain the rural charm of the little neighbourhood, particularly on a busy weekend with holidayers headed for Golden Ears Provincial Park.

The staff report notes the bridge crossing will be integrated into subdivision site preparations.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge council considers townhouses on Fern Crescent

ARMS opposes the subdivision because they say it will negatively impact the river and eliminate an important wildlife corridor.

Ashlie said local environmental groups and concerned individuals fear it will be just the first development along the river.

“This might be a door opening for the watershed of the Alouette to be completely developed out,” she said.

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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