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Maple Ridge public hearing blasts housing plan near river

People spoke for three hours against 26 homes
(Contributed) Plans are to put 26 homes near South Alouette River.

People packed into Maple Ridge’s public hearing Tuesday to voice their opposition to a plan to build a 26-home subdivision near the South Alouette River.

The applicant, Don Bowins, wants rezoning for four properties at 12555, 12599, 12516 – 240th street and at 12511 – 241st St. Total area of the properties is 20 acres, with most of that in the flood plain.

The group that cares for the river spoke against the project during the three-hour hearing.

Doug Stanger, treasurer with the Alouette River Management Society, said the project, by itself, may not have serious, effects. But he added that allowing it to proceed will be precedent-setting for future riverfront developments, “which will surely be death by a thousand cuts.”

Fellow ARMS director Daniel King said that the city should ask for an impact assessment on the effects of the development on salmon populations in the river.

Coho salmon are susceptible to stormwater runoff from driveways, roofs and roads and which could contain oil and detergents, he said.

He also said that studies show that coho exposed to stormwater die before they spawning.

“There are so many unanswered questions on this,” added ARMS director John Dale.

“What you guys are doing is disgusting,” added another resident, who’s been fishing on the river for 40 years.

In return for dedicating as park three acres of property on the north side of the river, the developer is proposing to create smaller lot sizes than usually found in the RS-2 suburban residential zone.

Staff estimate that the city would get a park worth $3.6 million on the north side of the river and save $200,000 in fill placement costs that would be needed for a future new bridge at the 240th Street location.

The city would also get a new sanitary sewage pump station worth about $215,000.

ARMS president and former city councillor Cheryl Ashlie questioned that amount and later suggested a different solution for the properties. She said government simply could buy the land, as the first block in a multi-decade gradual acquisition of property along the river to create another linear park, similar to Kanaka Creek Regional Park.

“This land could be the beginning of it,” she added.

“There’s no reason to go here,” Ashlie said. “We have our urban boundary. This is outside our urban boundary. We don’t even need the land.”

Instead, she thinks more housing should go in the urban areas of the city where there are services and transportation.

A staff report says the project would be integrated with site preparations for the bridge.

The report also notes that consultants with Northwest Hydraulics Consulting have found that placement of fill on the site for flood construction purposes “would have very minimal impact.”

The consultant also found that additional filling for the new bridge at 240th Street “will not result in a measurable change to the predicted flood profile of the [South] Alouette River.”

ARMS, however, contends that key flood events haven’t been considered and cites two studies that predict higher flood levels than those by the applicant.

City bylaws don’t prohibit building in the flood plain, but an assessment must be done.

Derek Ray, with the Northwest consultants, explained that the flood construction level will be based on what has been calculated, as the 200-year flood level, with another 60 centimetres added.

The 200-year flood level also would be 2.5 times higher than the 1995 level, he added.

Council heard that the environmental planner estimates a net habitat gain on the site, part of which would result from removing previous unpermitted soil and reverting to native soil.

The project also complies with the city’s environmental development permits and streamside protection regulations, which require setbacks from streams.

An initial version of the project called for 31 single family lots. That was given first reading by the previous council in 2017.

A previous application, in 2014, in the area included two of the properties currently sought for rezoning and proposed a 166-unit modular home for the area.

Staff, though, recommended against that, and the council of the day opted for deferral and the file was eventually abandoned.

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