Maple Ridge council doesn’t want to interfere with a Pitt Meadows plan to take farm land along Lougheed Highway out of the agricultural reserve.
The only thing a few councillors want is a fair shake from the Agricultural Land Commission, as it reviews Pitt Meadows application to exclude 33 hectares north of the highway for a shopping mall, business park and road construction.
Maple Ridge Coun. Cheryl Ashlie pointed out that Pitt Meadows is asking for the same thing the district was seeking in Albion flats, a concept that has essentially been denied.
“It is something that should be watched closely, to see how they’re treated,” she said Monday of Pitt Meadows.
Coun. Judy Dueck said the main issue for the city is traffic.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin, meanwhile, hopes the ALC will consider the Pitt application “in the same light as other communities.”
The City of Pitt Meadows applied last fall for the removal to allow development of a business park and shopping centre totalling 47 hectares and to allow construction of the North Lougheed Connector, which would run from Golden Ears Way to Harris Road, where a new interchange would be built.
The city claims the new road, which would be funded by developers, could divert commuters from Old Dewdney Trunk Road, making it easier on local farmers.
However, the land commission told Maple Ridge in 2011 that it wouldn’t support an exclusion application for the same purposes for property west of 105th Avenue in Albion flats, although it would consider an application on the east side of 105th Avenue.
The ALC in 2010 also rejected an application to remove 60 ha in Maple Ridge for a business park on the former Pelton tree nursery at 203rd Street and Golden Ears Way. That property is close to the land Pitt Meadows wants to remove.
Traffic, though, was a major concern for Maple Ridge councillors.
“I think the idea of an interchange at Harris Road, is in my opinion, a little ludicrous,” said Coun. Al Hogarth.
“To me, that’s just perpetuating the problem and adding to the pain of commuters through the area.”
Instead, Hogarth says an interchange and rail overpass should be built at Allen Way, farther west, closer to the Pitt River Bridge.
That would allow eastbound on traffic on the Pitt River Bridge easy access to the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport, he pointed out.
According to a Maple Ridge traffic engineering report, an in-depth traffic study hasn’t been done yet, and it’s “extremely important” to do one. The report calls for such as study given that possible higher traffic volumes on Lougheed Highway could result from the downgrading of Old Dewdney Trunk Road.
According to Maple Ridge’s retail consultant G. P. Rollo and Associates, the Pitt Meadows project could delay demand for industrial land in Maple Ridge by up to 15 years. Meanwhile, Pitt Meadows already has a “healthy” supply of industrial land.
The Pitt Meadows project could also hurt job numbers in Maple Ridge, says the Rollo report. With about 3,000 people expected to be working at the commercial-business development, Maple Ridge could lose up to 750 jobs over 15 years.
Maple Ridge’s downtown would be hurt from a 10- per-cent reduction in demand for retail land, although the momentum of growth of the core area could minimize that.
Rollo also says a hotel and convention centre on the Pitt Meadows site could delay a similar project in Maple Ridge.
Nevertheless, the major land owner in both North Lougheed and Albion flats, Smart Centres, says it would develop both sites simultaneously, if demand warranted it.
Council was to formalize its comments at Tuesday’s meeting, then send them on to Agricultural Land Commission.
Coun. Michael Morden supported the application, adding he’d like Maple Ridge to have the resulting jobs and that the tax revenue from the higher property values will go to Pitt Meadows.