Two new artificial fields planned for Thomas Haney secondary grounds. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge residents give go-ahead for $49 million in rec projects

Albion community centre, sports fields a priority

The people of Maple Ridge have approved the city’s plans for a $50-million recreation upgrade.

Or at least, they haven’t said no.

Results of the month-long alternative approval process, which ended Monday, showed that none of the projects received the 5,828 votes (or 10 per cent of eligible voters) against, which were required for the city to reconsider a particular one.

The city can now start planning construction and borrowing for two new all-weather sports fields at Thomas Haney secondary, a new Albion Community Centre on 104th Avenue, part of the entire refit of the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, a new arena at Planet Ice, along with two small parks in Silver Valley, and upgrades to the Hammond Community Centre and the canoe and kayak areas at Whonnock Lake.

“We’re happy,” Mayor Nicole Read said Tuesday.

“We needed to get this behind us and now staff will give us direction in terms of process.”

Staff will also suggest a timeline about what project gets built when.

Read, though, said the $8.5-million Albion Community Centre is a priority. It’s proceeding in tandem with a new Albion elementary school. Council was to look at preliminary designs at its Tuesday meeting.

“That definitely is a priority for the city, there’s no question.”

But getting the two new all-weather, artificial fields built on the grounds of Thomas Haney secondary and Telosky Stadium is equally pressing.

“Certainly, we need more fields urgently for our field teams. That and the Albion Community Centre are pretty high priorities, both.”

Read said staff will give council a break down of the votes received against each project. Construction timelines remain uncertain, though Read expects the community centre and fields to get underway this year.

Not all of the projects will get done before the current council’s mandate expires in October and civic elections take place.

“It’s a huge spend. We’re really excited about it. It’s going to fill some gaps that have existed in the community for some time,” Read said.

Meanwhile, the separately funded Karina Leblanc Field opens in a few months next to Maple Ridge secondary, while another artificial field at Golden Ears elementary, across from Thomas Haney, is out for tender.

Read said the recreation projects and the raising of development cost, or community amenity charges – fees paid by developers – are two major achievements of the current council.

In brief, the recreation projects and costs:

• ice sheet addition at Planet Ice, $23.5 million;

• Albion Community Centre, $8.5 million;

• two artificial sports fields at Thomas Haney secondary, $7 million;

• part of the costs of renovations to Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, $3.5 million;

• Hammond Community Centre renovation, $2.5 million;

• Whonnock Lake renovation, $1 million;

• Maple Ridge secondary track and field renovation, $2.5 million;

• Silver Valley neighbourhood gathering places, $1 million.

The city proposes borrowing $49.5 million to complete the projects, requiring a total tax increase to fund all eight of .35 per cent each year, for the next seven years.

After that period, people would be paying an average of an extra $60 a year on their property taxes.

But Coun. Tyler Shymkiw expects the costs to come in under budget. He’s also happy to see the projects proceed.

“I think it’s great. I think spending on infrastructure for kids is probably one of the biggest things I ran on [in 2014], so I’m glad to see it get to this stage.”

He also said the new community amenity charges will help pay for the projects and could reduce what the city has to borrow.

He added that the alternative approval process isn’t intended to be a subsitute for a referendum or plebiscite, but as a check on local government so the public can express its opinion.

If any one project received more than 10 per cent of the eligible votes against, council could have decided to hold a referendum on that project, build it without borrowing, or scrap it completely.

An outdoor swimming pool, which could cost about $14 million, proposed for the east side of Thomas Haney secondary, next to the Maple Ridge Lawn Bowling Club, wasn’t part of the process because there wasn’t enough information.

Shymkiw said he’d like this council to proceed with that project during its current term, although it too could have to go through a borrowing-approval process.

An outdoor pool beside Thomas Haney could be a centre of family activities, he added.

“It creates some great synergy for the whole area.”

But more likely that will be considered by a new council elected next October.

Coun. Gordy Robson doubts the current council will consider a new outdoor pool. However, he added a new leasing arrangement with Planet Ice could see the operator build the arena, instead of the city, reducing the borrowing costs by half.

The city has also started consultation on a new indoor aquatic centre for Maple Ridge, location unknown.

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Hammond Community Centre also set for refit. (Contributed)

Renos are planned for Whonnock Lake canoe facility. (Contributed)

Neighbourhood gathering places planned for Silver Valley. (Contributed)

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