James Rowley has already signed a heritage conservation agreement with the City of Maple Ridge

James Rowley has already signed a heritage conservation agreement with the City of Maple Ridge

Plan proposed to preserve Hammond

New development would have to fit character of area.

There is now a plan to save historic Hammond, allowing it to face the future.

That pleases James Rowley – providing Maple Ridge council and the public also accept most of what’s called the Hammond area preliminary concept plan.

“I’m very happy because having a general plan for the area is so much more efficient and positive. It gives residents that security over not having any plan,” said Rowley, who lives in the most heritage-rich part of Hammond.

Following public input last year, staff created the draft plan for the Hammond area, bordered roughly by Lougheed Highway and the Fraser River, and by the Maple Meadows West Coast Express station in the west and 207th street in the east.

It calls for preserving the street grid, even the back alleys, maintaining the heritage trees that have grown up in the past century,  and requiring any new development to fit into the character of the area that sprung up along the Fraser River in 1883.

Diversity in housing types, allowing seniors to age in place instead of having to move, and reusing existing buildings are some of the other objectives.

Rowley said if there was no plan and each new condo or housing proposal was considered piecemeal,  “We could get in trouble very fast,” because there would be no rationale for refusing designs that don’t fit with the heritage area.

Hammond was first registered as a township in 1883 and each portion developed at different times. For instance, the north Hammond area, closer to Lougheed Hwy., was developed in the 1980s. Upper Hammond, adjacent to Maple Crescent, began in the 1880s. The opening of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Hammond train station in 1885 spurred more growth.

Lower Hammond, alongside the Fraser River and south of the railway tracks, took longer to grow and remains more rural. The fourth sub-area, called a precinct in the plan, is the Maple Meadows Business Park.

Hammond areas

The draft plan proposes one of three tools that could preserve the heritage-rich upper Hammond, which contains dozens of small homes built near the Hammond cedar mill.

One option is to create a heritage conservation area, where any major renovations to a house would require a heritage alteration permit from the city. Homeowners still would be able to paint or re-roof their houses.

Another option is making an expanded commercial use zone, which would allow owners of detached homes to have businesses in them – provided they designate their homes as heritage buildings.

The third strategy would be to just create a permit area in which any new condo or townhouse would have to conform to strict rules, prescribing colours, building materials, and design features and heritage-style landscaping.

Rowley likes the idea of doing something specifically to protect upper Hammond.

“That’s something I think would really help.”

Many of the residents want to preserve the character of that area, and creating a separate strategy for upper Hammond would do that instead of forcing the same restrictions on to all of Hammond.

“If you don’t have guidelines with any teeth to them, you end up having monster houses next to tiny, little mill houses.”

Rowley has already signed a heritage conservation agreement with the City of Maple Ridge, allowing him to renovate his home while preserving its historic character.

“Our experience is with a heritage agreement, is that it’s quite flexible and much more reasonable than people think.”

The draft plan, though, proposes higher density uses, such as condos and townhouses, for other parts of Hammond. That would allow revitalization of the area while ideally preserving its character.

Low-density housing, such as townhouses and fourplexes, are proposed along transportation routes and near the West Coast Express Maple Meadows station, while medium-density development, allowing townhouses, condos and row houses, would be allowed near 207th Street and Lougheed Highway.

Increasing population density is better than having suburbs expanding into the mountains, Rowley added.

Relatively little of the Hammond area is proposed for commercial development.

City planner Lisa Zosiak said the plan is still preliminary and goes to an open house March 30 at Hammond elementary. Input from that will be used to create the final version to go to council in the summer.

The plan was in Monday’s workshop but was deferred until March 14’s meeting.

“We still want to have a further discussion with the community. We want to hear what they say about this, how much tweaking they want us to do. Maybe they say this density is too much or maybe they’ll say, ‘maybe you can do a bit more,” Zosiak said.

“These are not rules, these are guiding principles,” which will then form the basis of bylaws, she added.

The city, last year, received input from two open houses, online questionnaires, input via Instagram and Facebook, a photo project and video interviews.  Maple Ridge’s previous council started the planning process.