Maple Ridge council is playing hardball with the transportation ministry by delaying a new 150-unit apartment building until the city sees the latest plans for the Haney Bypass-222nd Street-Lougheed Highway intersection.
The city has received an application to rezone seven lots on the south side of Lougheed Highway, just west of the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries on 222nd Street, to allow construction of a four- or five-storey apartment building, with up to 150 bachelor, one- and two-bedroom suites.
Coun. Gordy Robson first asked that the project be deferred until the city hears back from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure about its latest plans for improving the intersection at that corner.
That was defeated, but a later first reading was also defeated, although the mayor can bring back the application to council.
Robson wants the ministry to buy the eastern part of the Salvation Army property, on 222nd Street, to allow a better design of the bypass intersection. Under the current proposal to be built in the next few years, the ministry is proposing only a double right-hand turn lane, and no left-turn northbound from Lougheed on to 222nd Street, and requiring only a five-metre frontage strip of the Salvation Army property.
“If they don’t buy that land, the [Salvation Army] building is too close to put a left-hand turn lane in. Our engineers are not happy with that,” Robson said.
He said if the ministry buys the eastern part of the Salvation Army property, the developer of the apartment block could buy the western part, and extend the project, assuming the developer is interested.
“We want the development to go to the end of the block,” Robson said.
He added he wasn’t asking for the developer to pay for intersection improvements, as the city sometimes requires.
But Mayor Nicole Read wanted to give first reading to the project at council’s Tuesday meeting, then talk later with ministry about the intersection.
“I think there’s still an opportunity. I think council can take action after we talk to the minister,” Read said.
The lots, which contained smaller, older homes, went on sale last year, and were sold in December.
“We’ve had so many council conversations about putting a nice entrance to that area. It might be an amazing opportunity for a developer to be reponsible to create the entrance to Maple Ridge, but that’s just a side note,” said Coun. Corisa Bell.
Robson also argued that delaying the apartment building until after talks with the ministry would be the way to apply the most pressure.
Read also questioned trying to connect a developer’s property to the highway project, or if the developer was interested in expanding the project or even if the Salvation Army wanted to sell its property.
“I think there are a number of challenges with this.”
A Maple Ridge city staff report notes that properties are on the western edge of the south of Lougheed area that is part of the town centre area plan. That calls for low-rise apartments.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure plans on reconstructing the nearby intersection at 222nd Street and Haney Bypass and Lougheed, as part of the first phase of improvements along the Haney Bypass. The project will be referred to the ministry for comment to see if it fits with the ministry’s plans for the intersection.
As part of that project, the ministry has also bought the property directly behind, Maple Ridge Pool and Spa Centre, for $1.7 million.
How the new intersection will be configured with the spa building demolished while the Salvation Army building remains, hasn’t been explained.
The pool spa business had been affected by the formation of the Cliff Avenue homeless camp in 2015, directly outside its doors.
Joanne Pinkney, with Maple Ridge Pool and Spa Centre, said she and her family have to vacate the property by May 31. She and her husband operate the business and live on the second floor.
“We’ve been told it [the building] will come down immediately.”
The sale also means the couple is looking for a new home for themselves and their business, which is also up for sale.
“There’s nothing in Maple Ridge. As far as housing is concerned, everything is over a million,” Pinkney said.
Darrell Pilgrim, executive-director with the Salvation Army, said he hasn’t heard anything from the ministry.
“We’re still planning on moving forward in our current location and offer all the programs that we feel our community needs.”
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said in January that it was buying two lots on Burnett Street, near Valley Fair Mall, for use as an 80-bed supportive housing and shelter, to be operated by the Salvation Army, allowing the army to move only its shelter program to the new location, if approved.
The province has said it will apply to council for rezoning for the project.