The current Maple Ridge council is leaving it up to the next to decide how it wants treat an application to remove 61 acres in Albion flats from the Agricultural Land Reserve for development into a light industrial park, near Lougheed Highway and Jim Robson Way.
The application comes from Sherry Gordon Your Land Development and Research Solutions and pertains to lots in the northwest corner of Albion flats, at 23623 and 23451 Jim Robson Way.
The properties were part of the city’s concept plan for Albion flats submitted in 2011, calling for the exclusion of all the Albion flats.
The Agricultural Land Commission ruled then that only the land on the east side of Jim Robson Way could come out of the reserve and allow development, on condition that the soil on the west side of Jim Robson Way was improved for farming.
Council then sent a second exclusion application for the two lots to the commission in 2012, to get more clarification, but that too was rejected.
In 2015, the city decided to renew its efforts on the Albion flats to create an area plan, but that was stalled while the city dealt with its current recreation infrastructure upgrades, now underway, and which called for building another ice sheet at Planet Ice, in Albion flats, as well as new sports fields and improvements to the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre.
However, a new plan for Albion flats should be ready in two months.
Sherry Gordon, consultant for the owners of the properties, said at council’s Oct. 2 meeting that they haven’t been able to use the land for many years.
“So they would like to get on with their lives and do something that is non-agricultural related.”
Gordon said that the intent is to develop the property in a low-impact way.
“We believe that this development can be a very positive addition to the industrial land base in Maple Ridge, as well as satisfying the community’s needs for employment lands.”
She added that the lands are not suitable for farming because of a refusal to address drainage issues “from as far back as 1981.”
The two properties needed their soil protected before upland development that took place because they’re now “completely unproductive and unable to support agriculture,” she added.
The two properties are at the lowest point in the Albion flats because of the fill that has been placed on nearby lands, she added.
Gordon said it would now cost about $10-million to fix drainage problems in the area and asked that the city support the exclusion application and include a comment that the city is unable to fix the drainage.
Coun. Corisa Bell favoured deferral of the application, as did Coun. Bob Masse.
“I do agree that this has gone far too long,” said Masse.
He favoured waiting until the Albion flats area plan is presented early in the new year and which will address the drainage issues.
Coun. Tyler Shymkiw added that the best hope is to have the exclusion proposal supported by a new area plan.
Mayor Nicole Read, though, doubted that the ALC would accept the exclusion application.
”Why would the ALC not send it back again if nothing’s changed?” Read asked.
A staff report notes that getting the land on the east side of Jim Robson Way excluded depends on drainage improvements being made to improve soil on the west side of that road, and that land would remain within the ALR.
The drainage improvements have to be done before land is excluded and at the expense of those developing the east side of the flats.
A majority on council voted for deferral, with Coun. Kiersten Duncan opposed.