Cheryl Ashlie, president of ARMS, at the launch of a challenge and fundraising campaign in 2019. (The News files)

Cheryl Ashlie, president of ARMS, at the launch of a challenge and fundraising campaign in 2019. (The News files)


Riverfront subdivision clears council, buried by landslide

ARMS, Katzie, and environmentalists fought flood-plain development

The controversy swirling around a riverfront development in Maple Ridge couldn’t sink the project, but a landslide finally brought it down.

The 26-home subdivision was proposed for a 20-acre site on the South Alouette River, at the north end of 240th street.

It was vigorously opposed by the Alouette River Management Society (ARMS), local conservationists and the Katzie First Nation. ARMS had $36,000 donated to a legal fund to fight the project, after their Save Our Salmon (SOS) campaign launched in late 2019.

ARMS and those taking an environmental stand against the project said such a development should not happen in the flood plain because it could change the hydrology of the river, and result in a loss of river habitat.

They said the maximum that would be allowed on the site under existing bylaws was seven or eight houses.

Ken Stewart, president of the group, argued that allowing the development would set a precedent for future development along the riverfront.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge public hearing blasts housing plan near river

In June, the opponents railed against the subdivision in an online public hearing that went almost until midnight.

The Katzie First Nation said the development is “not respective of our long-standing dialogue with the Crown to restore the historical and incremental impacts of the Alouette-Stave-Ruskin hydro-electric facilities on our rights, title and interest.” The band also said the city has not met its legal requirements for consultation and engagement.

READ ALSO: ARMS, Katzie, public blast riverfront subdivision plan

A week later, councillors voted to approve the plan.

A city environmental planner said approximately 62 per cent of the 20-acre site had been set aside for conservation purposes, and that included areas along the river. The setback from the top of the river bank is further than the 30 metres required by senior governments for flood plains, and provides a wide corridor for wildlife, he said.

Director of planning Chuck Goddard told council only about 16 lots would be allowed on the site without density bonusing. In exchange for the density bonus, the city gets a three-acre dedicated riverfront park, improvements to road, sewer and water networks, the placement of fill for future, and 62 per cent of the site preserved in a “green, natural state.”

“This might be a door opening for the watershed of the Alouette to be completely developed out,” said Cheryl Ashlie, a former city councillor and a past president of ARMS.

ARMS had launched a legal challenge of the city’s approvals process. It caused a do-over of the public hearing, but did not stop the project.

Ultimately, that happened after the project was rejected by the provincial government. According to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, Trisand Properties submitted an application to the province or permission to work in and about a stream. It proposed to infill a portion of Latimer Creek, a tributary of the Alouette, and construct a channel as compensation for impacts to habitat. On Sept. 2, the application was refused by the province.

The developer appealed, but record rains brought a landslide on the site that effectively buried their proposal.

READ ALSO: Landslide buries plan for riverfront subdivision in Maple Ridge

“The landslide was actually a blessing, in that nobody was hurt and no houses were hit,” said Coun. Ahmed Yousef. “There’s at least two houses we might have had to recover people from.”

Despite ARMS taking legal action against the city, Stewart did not anticipate that any grudge would be held against the river group, and said they did not bear any ill will toward the city councillors who approved the project.

“ARMS has our mandate, and we try to be as apolitical as possible,” said Stewart.

“Whoever is the mayor, MP, or MLAs, we work with them, and try to move our agenda forward.”

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