(THE NEWS files) Railway overpasses and underpasses projects are finally going beyond the conceptual stage.

Massive agenda for Pitt Meadows council in 2018

Dealing with Onni, pool, firehall, underpasses and more in an election year

Pitt Meadows council has a busy agenda with some major items in the year ahead.

Mayor John Becker looks at 2018 as a year when many council initiatives will be completed. Some of the major work includes a new outdoor pool proposal, a new fire hall, considering Onni’s Golden Ears Business Park, resuming work on the north Lougheed property, and working with senior government on railway overpasses and underpasses.

And politically, there will be an election on Oct. 20, 2018

“The election will be the elephant in the room,” said Becker.

Council will need to make a decision on a new pool proposal early in the new year, he said, because it is considering purchasing a used modular Myrtha Competition Pool that had been set up in Windsor, Ont. for the 2016 FINA World Swimming Championships.

Council doesn’t want to rush into any thoughtless expenditures, he said, noting council could consider spending up to $7 million, plus operating costs on a pool.

But if there is federal funding available, and whether Maple Ridge would consider partnering in the project, are key considerations.

“We need to get our partners in order,” said Becker.

The new fire hall project is a $10-million item that will proceed in 2018, as the city identifies a site and begins planning a new facility.

Becker has been questioned about the need for the expenditure, and he said council needs to inform the public about the requirements for space under modern regulations.

They say the hall should be 21,000 square feet, whereas the existing hall is 6,600. It is also not seismically compliant with the B.C. Building Code. The existing site is 0.63 acres in size, where a consultant advised council to look for one that is 1.9 acres.

He said council will also explore the potential to partner with B.C. Ambulance in the new project.

Land service is always a controversial issue, and council must deal with the Onni light industrial development in south Bonson.

“It’s our single biggest project, in terms of time and resources,” said the mayor.

All four phases of the project will see 200 acres developed for four million square feet of buildable area.

Council has sent Onni’s latest proposal back with approximately 20 demands for changes, including building heights, setbacks and other issues that have been controversial with the public. That happened at third reading of the rezoning application for phases three and four of the business park in June.

Council had received more than 500 written submissions opposing the proposal before that June hearing.

Becker said council is now waiting to hear back from Onni before the project is considered for final approval.

The north Lougheed area will be back on the council agenda in the spring or early summer. The 125-acre property, in the northeast corner of the Lougheed Highway and Harris Road intersection, is a private venture. But Becker is aware that Smartreit and other landowners involved would “like to see something happen.”

He said so far in its term, this council has asked the land owners to be patient, but new plans for the area will be considered during the review of the official community plan, which is coming this year.

The OCP is part of council’s administrative work the public mostly does not see.

Becker also did not want to overlook the development of an official airport plan, which includes governance work and relationship building with its partner in the facility, Maple Ridge.

“It’s a massive job, like running a small city,” he explained. “The airport needs to find its own niche in the marketplace.”

And the city is finally dealing with overpasses and an underpass at CP Rail crossings as more than just a wish list.

CP Rail, as part of the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum, informed council it is planning overpasses for both Kennedy Road and Allen Way, and the long-awaited underpass at Harris Road.

These projects should get traffic through the city, which often gets snarled by trains, moving smoothly.

“We’re finally getting our senior government colleagues in to see us,” said Becker.

All of this work must take place during what politicos call “the silly season,” which is the period of time before an election when incumbent members of council and all those candidates seeking to take their seats at the table are prone to viewing issues and making speeches through the lens of getting elected.

Becker calls it “pandering and grandstanding to curry favour with the voters.”

In that situation, some councils will play it safe, and not embark on any new initiatives that might stir controversy in the electorate.

Becker said his council will continue with its work.

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