A new cultural facility could be built next to the Leisure Centre in Maple Ridge.

Ridge residents, be ready for recreation plan by fall

Coun. Bob Masse still favours referendum.

Maple Ridge residents will have to wait until September to see how a new cultural centre-museum, aquatic centre, ice rink and sports stadium look on paper.

Earlier this month, council told staff to create presentation materials for all of the recreation projects, then bring them back to the public and interest groups for comment.

Exact dates and details about how and when that will happen are undecided, although staff are to go back to council on May 24 with updates.

“We need to get on it, that’s for sure,” said Coun. Bob Masse.

The city rolled out the first piece of its grand plan – a $40-million cultural facility-museum, proposed for west of the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, next to Memorial Peace Park, at its May 2 meeting.

It would include a museum, meeting space, an area for post-secondary education and public plaza.

Recreation general manager Kelly Swift said the city is now hiring designers and architects to draw up the concepts for the aquatic centre, the sports stadium and ice rink.

Following neighbourhood meetings earlier this year, a concept has already been created for the Albion community centre on 104th Avenue.

Swift said the cultural facility concept design was done in advance so that it could be described and be used to apply for federal grants.

“We’re not actually seeking input [on that] yet. The whole package will come out together. All of them will roll out,” she added.

“Then we’ll do the full community consultation.”

It’s possible, that all of the concepts could be ready by June, but September is more likely.

People could give their feedback in early fall, then vote on the projects before the end of the year.

“I think we will be striving for that because it helps us set the financial plan for the next five years,” Swift said. “So we’re always driving to have those big decisions made.”

Masse favours a plebiscite or referendum asking people if they’d approve of the city borrowing money to pay for the projects, instead of the alternative approval process, in which 10 per cent of the voters must vote against a project, otherwise it proceeds.

“My intuition is that you get more valid representation with a referendum.”

The alternative approval process, similar to negative option billing, in which consumers pay for a service they didn’t request unless they specifically reject it, can be more easily swayed by special interest groups, Masse added.

Earlier this year, the city’s budget included one option for financing such projects – borrowing $110 million.

But the total amount of all the new projects could be less or more. Federal and provincial grants could whittle down the total cost.

Masse is confident that once the projects have been decided, the numbers can be explained simply to the public.

“That’s clearly my intent, that we get a process that’s clear for people,” he said.

“The one thing that we’ve agreed on is a rigorous public consultation process and making it really clear what the proposal is and here’s what it will cost you.”

Coun. Tyler Shymkiw also favours a referendum, and maybe adding a few other questions, such asking people if they want city-wide garbage collection or if they want council to expand from seven members to nine.

That could add interest to a referendum, he added.

“I think, to my mind, we’re sort of headed towards a referendum. But there’s nothing in policy,” Shymkiw said.

“There will be stakeholder consultation and public consultation once we have designs.”

Once people have given their input, the concepts will be further refined, costs will be attached, followed by a public vote.

Shymkiw said the new cultural facility proposed for next to Memorial Peace Park could help pay for itself if the city leased out the upper levels to private business or a proposed post-secondary campus.

He pointed out that concepts for the cultural facility were created first so it could be ready for new federal grants just announced. The cultural facility project includes the $6-million renovation, repairs and upgrades to the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre building, including a new pools, as well as new water-filtration and plumbing systems.

Masse said most of council favours spending the money, about $40 million, to upgrade the 30-year-old building.

“To say that it’s not worth spending $6 million to make it new mechanically, I don’t think there’s any argument about that.”

And people don’t seem upset about taking out the green space and trees to make room for the new cultural facility,” Masse said.

Coun. Gordy Robson still favours the city leasing that land to a private company, which would instead build a hotel and convention centre beside the park.

“I would support a museum if we were paying a very small portion of the cost,” with senior governments grants covering most of it.

But museums are struggling, he added.

“Museums are pretty much dead. It’s all over the world. Static museums are on the decrease, big time.”

Robson said it’s possible the city could finance the projects without having to go to referendum.


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