Pitt Meadows council won’t be voting anytime soon on what the city should do with the vast tract of land off Lougheed Highway.
Although the final report on the North Lougheed Corridor was released in committee Tuesday, councillors decided to refer the document to the city’s economic development corporation, its agricultural advisory group and the provincial Agricultural Land Commission for feedback on planning issues.
AECOMM, which led the review, already consulted all three agencies as part of the study.
It’s why MLA Michael Sather wonders if the referral is being considered to delay a council vote on the three development options pitched by the study until after November’s civic election.
“Are they doing it to avoid a showdown around it?,” asks Sather, who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
“It is a bit mystifying to me.”
The $40,000 study considered 50.9 hectares (125 acres) of land between Harris Road and Meadow Gardens Way that extends all the way to the yet-to-be developed North Lougheed Connector, much of it agricultural.
Of the three options sketched out by consultants, the ones that set aside land for agricultural uses won’t generate enough cash to cover the costs of building the North Lougheed Connector, a road that’s needed to access the commercial strip.
The city still maintains the connector is being proposed as a way to take traffic off Old Dewdney Trunk Road.
Even the third option, which proposes a mix of uses, including big stores, a hotel or conference centre, showrooms or a business park on the entire 50.9 hectares site, will struggle to meet the costs.
It’s why Coun. Bruce Bell, who is firmly against punching the road through farmland, feels the city’s push for the North Lougheed Connector is premature.
He too wondered why the city was now referring the study to the land commission.
“I really want to look after Pitt Meadows, agricultural land and farming,” he said.
“The groups that we’ve talked to have said there should be some farming or agricultural component. We shouldn’t be in any hurry on this and do it right.”
Of the land being considered for development, only 17.5 hectares (43 acres) is zoned highway commercial. The remaining 32.5 hectares (80 acres) would have to be removed from the agricultural land reserve.
Residents who attended an open house on the study overwhelmingly supported the first option, Concept A, which sets aside 16 hectares (39.5 acres) for farming or other agricultural uses, like a land trust or food processing facility.
The second plan, option B, reserves 12 hectares (30 acres) for farming.
At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Coun. John Becker thanked Smart!Centres, a developer that owns a large tract of land along the highway, for respecting the city’s process, but could not accept the consultant’s recommend land use concept that proposes developing the entire site.
“It meets the economic needs of the North Lougheed Connector,” he said.
“But I have grave reservations of the possibility of it getting through the [Agriculture Land Commission].”
Meanwhile, Coun. Doug Bing, who will be vying for the mayor’s seat come November, voiced his support for the third option.
“It’s the last developable piece of land in Pitt Meadows. The location is right on the highway. It really supports some employment-generating economic development,” he said. “It seems the only logical way to go.”
Council will vote on the committee recommendation to forward the report to the Agricultural Land Commission at a regular meeting next week.