The land commission wants drainage improvements done as a condition for developing the east side of Jim Robson Way. (THE NEWS/files)

The land commission wants drainage improvements done as a condition for developing the east side of Jim Robson Way. (THE NEWS/files)

OUTLOOK: : The future is focused on Albion flats

Planning resumes for big chunk of land along Lougheed Highway

  • Nov. 28, 2018 8:00 a.m.

Whatever the future for the much-discussed and debated 133 hectares along Lougheed Highway and Jim Robson Way, it’s going to be a while before a shovel turns and any kind of development starts in the Albion flats.

Because first a plan must be put into place.

Planning director Christine Carter said that staff will update Maple Ridge’s new council early in the year about Albion flats. She’ll review how the outgoing council saw the flats, in order to see if that accords with the views of the new council.

“What we need to do, is go back to the incoming council and just say, ‘This was the direction from the last council about the sorts of land uses they want us to put in the Albion flats.’

“We’ll go give them an update and ask them, ‘Are you comfortable with the last direction we got from the previous council?’ ” Carter explained.

“We’re all lined up. That’s one of the first things we want to talk to them about.”

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 the flats, as well as new sports fields and improvements to the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre.

Albion flats, which is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve, had been the subject of an intensive community planning process eight years ago, involving brain-storming sessions, meetings, consultants and reports.

That resulted in an Albion flats concept in 2010 that envisioned the west side of Jim Robson Way remaining mostly agricultural, while the east side could have been a mix of commercial, recreation and light industrial.

Maple Ridge’s outgoing council reviewed that concept in 2016 and decided it was still valid.

No member of council felt the need to scrap the designs and go back to the drawing board, then mayor Nicole Read said at the time.

“Lots of work from the public went into those concepts, so it’s good to continue those, she added.

“It sounded quite unanimous from council that we wished to see north [west] of 105th [Avenue] remain agricultural,” along with some agricultural-related business taking place there, Read added.

That concept, however, was not presented in 2011 to the Agricultural Land Commission for comment. Instead, a version that called for development on both sides Jim Robson Way was presented.

The area lies within the Agricultural Land Reserve and any development requires the consent of the Agricultural Land Commission before it’s excluded from the land reserve for development.

The commission responded by saying it only would allow development on the east side of Jim Robson Way, providing expensive drainage work be done to improve soil conditions on the west side of Jim Robson Way.

Once staff have an idea of what Maple Ridge’s new council wants, it will create a rough concept for the area and included that in a land exclusion application to Agricultural Land Commission.

Once an exclusion is granted by the commission, the city can begin writing up a formal, Albion flats area plan, which would spell out the future recreational, commercial and industrial uses.

Carter’s not sure how long the entire process will take.

But each step can take months, if not years.

“But there’s no point in getting those property owners super excited if the commission is not going to support it,” Carter said.

Approval from Metro Vancouver is also needed.

Carter said Albion flats and the Lougheed Highway corridor from the downtown to 200th Street, will be the two major projects for the planning department in the next few years.