Maple Ridge creating agricultural endowment fund

Money would come by allocating 10 per cent of increase in taxes that from farmland converted to commercial or industrial use.

Maple Ridge is trying to help the future of farming by creating an agricultural endowment reserve account for the cause, supplied by taxes generated when land is lost to farming.

Council OK’d the step at its Tuesday meeting after discussing it at its Monday workshop.

The money would come by allocating 10 per cent of the increase in municipal taxes that result when farmland is converted to commercial or industrial use.

Director of corporate support John Bastaja told council though, that it’s hard to predict how much cash the account would pile up. That depends how much land is converted, he said.

“No one else has done this as far as I’m aware.”

Coun. Mike Morden said the proposal meant taking money out of the tax base of the future, and later added that the person selling the property for non-farm use and making the profit should be the one paying.

A report by Bastaja suggested that the reserve account be divvied up by spending half of it on upgrading farm infrastructure and 25 per cent each on marketing and agricultural studies.

But council decided to remove those percentages and allow more flexibility.

The funding should go a long way to provide “much-needed support for work in areas where there is no traditional funding source,” the report said.

Examples of projects that would qualify include promotions, studies and research in the context of agriculture.

Coun. Bob Masse asked why the reserve account couldn’t be supplied be residential developments.

But Bastaja said housing subdivisions don’t pay for themselves.

The property taxes generated aren’t enough to pay for the services required so it would be “inappropriate” to take the 10 per cent from those developments.

Coun. Al Hogarth called the idea of the agricultural endowment reserve “innovative and creative.”

Land that has been lost to agriculture can then support the activity, he said.

The fund could support the Agricultural Land Commission in increasing food productivity.


Development permit for Target

Maple Ridge council cleared the way for Target to start its renovations to Haney Place Mall, approving a development permit Tuesday.

Renovations for the new Target store will start February 2013, with a projected store opening date of Nov. 15, 2013, according to the District of Maple Ridge.

Renovations include removing the west side of the building to change the configuration and location of the elevator and escalators, as well as expanding the building footprint and relocation of the store entrance.

The current total floor space is approximately 86,000 square feet, and the new Target store will be approximately 110,000 square feet.

John Dewes, with Target, told council Monday that the total number of employees in the Maple Ridge location will be about 250, with a mix of full-time and part time-positions. He also said Target donates five per cent of pre-tax profits for its community giving program, and that part of that money is directed by the management team at each store.


More homes along 240th Street

A townhouse project along 240th Street received final reading Tuesday, giving the go ahead for work to begin on the 159-unit project.

Platinum Enterprises is proposing to build that many units within 25 buildings at 10175 – 240th St.

The complex border Albion elementary on one side and conservation wetlands on the other.

Storm water from the roofs and driveways will be collected in shallow ditches, then will flow into a pond in the wetlands area. Each home will have two parking spaces and there will be racks for 24 bicycles, two child play areas and a network of paths throughout the site. Thirty-two visitor parking spaces are also included.

“They’re good starter units,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin.

The project means 240th Street will be widened to four lanes from Lougheed Highway to 102nd Avenue, with sidewalks on both sides.

The development takes place on a nine-acre site that recently was included within the urban boundary.

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