Open house on Albion flats packs them in again

Maple Ridge politicians will have no shortage of reading material after the latest meeting to figure out the future of the Albion flats.

Maple Ridge politicians will have no shortage of reading material after the latest meeting to figure out the future of the Albion flats.

About 200 people interested in the area along Lougheed Highway and 105th Avenue attended the open house Wednesday, with many putting their thoughts in writing on comment sheets.

Debbie Gillette was one of those who wanted to see better shopping. She’s only lived in Maple Ridge for six years and still has to go to Langley or Coquitlam to find even basic clothing items.

Sharing the same opinion while looking at the display board nearby was Claire Lindsay, a resident of Maple Ridge for 36 years. It’s nice to live in an area that has hiking, she said, but how much hiking can you do?

“Everything is study, study, study. That’s all they do is talk about it.”

The meeting is the latest in the public’s say on the plan for developing the 125 hectares in the flats, from 240th Street to Tamarack Lane.

Once staff and council review the feedback, they may or may not tweak the plan before sending it for comment to Agricultural Land Commission.

The plan calls for big-box stores and a business park on the west side of 105th Avenue and a mix of recreation, light industry and residential on the east side.

It’s a good mix as far as realtor Don Pearce is concerned. He lives above the fields on Tamarack Lane and, as long as traffic concerns are addressed, he likes the plan.

“Right now, we have cross-town traffic. It’s bad.”

So he wants any development to be sure to funnel traffic on to Lougheed Highway.

It would also be nice to see future business parks provide local employment so residents wouldn’t have to commute to Vancouver, he added.

“I like it. I think it’s good. It will bring some commercial into the area.”

For father Marty Allison, who lives in the Albion suburbs, the plan offers a good balance.

“I think it’s a pretty good mix so far,” he said, adding it would be nice to have some new stores. “Definitely, it’s long overdue. A restaurant would be nice, if that’s part of the plan.”

Wendy and Tony Suveges also liked what they saw. “It’s as about as much as you can do here,” she said.

“It’s really filled in to the max. It’s going to be an instant community.”

For him, the plan had a lot of merit. “It’s going to complement the community of Haney.”

But Christian Cowley, with the Community Education on Environment and Development Centre, doubted any development west of 105th Avenue, within the Agricultural Land Reserve, would be approved by the Agricultural Land Commission.

“My opinion is they don’t want this plan to go forward, but they have to be seen to be responding. They’re letting the ALC make the decision.”

The first concepts after the brainstorming sessions last fall recommended no development west of 105th Avenue, the area where mall developer SmartCentres owns several acres.

Cowley said when the ALC rejects the plan, Maple Ridge will have to start over, focusing on the east side of 105th, the area where there is already development and which has a greater chance of exclusion from the land reserve.

“I don’t think it’s designed to succeed.”

One element of the plan calls for residential along the west side of 240th Street, development that’s already happening.

Darrel McEachern, with Bruce’s Country Market, is fine with that and the overall concept as long as access off 240th St. to his store is preserved.

Community planning manager Christine Carter was happy with the turnout and said about half the people filled out comment sheets. Many were happy with the concept, but some weren’t, she added.

Staff and council will read all of the comment sheets, one of which asked the question: “Do you support the plan, yes or no?”

“It was a busy night,” Carter said.

People have a week to file their comment sheets and can also give their opinion on the district’s website. The issue comes back to council in the fall.