A petition with 628 signatures protesting the development of the North Lougheed Study Area and the implementation of a new connector road was put before Pitt Meadows City council Tuesday.
Maureen Robertson, one author of the petition, would like to see the entire area kept or reverted back to farmland.
“A few of us were out collecting signatures and I would say that the overall reaction when people were made aware of what was potentially happening in the North Lougheed Study Area was a concern about farmland,” she said.
“They like living in Pitt Meadows because it has the small community feel, and that it’s 78 per cent farmland, so it’s a real concern that more farmland would be taken out of the Agricultural Land Reserve.”
She said the exclusion approval for the study area by the Agricultural Land Committee was based on outdated traffic and development planning information, which she and co-author, Sandie Banni, say will change due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They argue there is no need for a new North Lougheed connector road and would like to see further environmental assessment before any more development takes place.
During council’s online meeting, Mayor Bill Dingwall pointed out the North Lougheed Study Area has been on the council radar since the mid-1980s, and during the past 10 years or so there have been a number of exclusions already granted by the Agricultural Land Commission.
“Council is not applying for any additional exclusions [at this time] and is operating under the ones already granted under the conditions,” he added.
“The city, with unanimous council endorsement, is continuing to move forward on this significant development of 125 acres likely to include residential, [both] medium- and high-density, especially in light of rapid bus running up the Lougheed,” Dingwall said.
“It will include commercial and likely some mixed-industrial green space and involves traffic calming on Old Dewdney [Trunk Road],” he added.
The mayor went on to say that during the past 18 months, there has been “significant” public engagement on the North Lougheed Study Area, as well as part of the official community plan.
“It’s also been on the agenda for our agricultural advisory committee, and they’re well aware of the progress and the development of the North Lougheed.”
The potential of the development was lauded.
“It represents important residential growth to meet our Metro Vancouver commitments,” said Dingwall, who took exception to the petition.
He argued this plan provides jobs, commercial service, tax revenue, and enhanced city services, as well as improving congestion and transportation issues in the corridors.
During the meeting, Dingwall took some time to question some aspects of the petition.
“While the proponents in the letter talk about 628 Pitt Meadows residents, staff have now confirmed that only 368 are from Pitt Meadows, or about 58 per cent,” he pointed out, before adding a lot of the signatures were from areas that were developed in the somewhat recent past.
“Both Dorado, which has 81 homes, and Fairways, which has 268 apartments, for a total of 349 were also once in the [Agricultural Land Reserve] and they are adjacent to the North Lougheed Study Area,” the mayor cited.
“If you assume a two-person household, then nearly 700 people are now enjoying amazing homes with amazing vistas overlooking the golf course and the mountains to the north. It would appear though that out of the 368 [signees] from Pitt Meadows, 69 people, or 44 out of the 81 units from Dorado signed the petition, including one of the authors.”
Dingwall noted there were five additional signees from Fairways, which is next door.
He took further exception to COVID-19 being referenced frequently in the petition, when most of the signatures were gathered up to three months before the pandemic took place.
In closing, he did acknowledge the importance of community input.
“The signatures on this petition are not insignificant nor inconsequential,” he said. “But council stands united, that this project remains important to Pitt Meadows.”
The planning and approval process is in what Dingwall called the early stages and there will continue to be more opportunity for the community to learn more, ask questions, as well as provide advice and ideas that he feels “will make this project even better for the City of Pitt Meadows.”
Robertson admitted the wording of the petition could have been better.
“There’s truth in what the mayor said about the percentage of people who signed it,” she told The News.
“We as a team failed to get the words right. We should have said these are people who live, work, and play in Pitt Meadows.”
She is happy that the petition got before council and looks to continue to do her part to ensure agricultural area is not infringed on.