Shopping proposal would ‘hurt Ridge core’

285 housing units proposed on the property straddling Lougheed Highway.

Plans for a housing project on a large chunk of property owned by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure at the eastern entrance to downtown Maple Ridge have too much shopping space, according to city staff.

Qualico Developments made the application for 285 housing units, including detached homes, townhomes and rowhomes, on the property straddling Lougheed Highway.

An April 20 report says the residential portion fits with long-term plans, but the 38,750-sq. feet proposed for shopping, including a grocery store similar in size to Cooper’s Foods on 240th Street, would threaten the economic viability of the town centre and should be reduced.

The commercial portion proposed for Lougheed Highway, “could be a threat to the growth, momentum and well-being of the town centre area,” the report says.

“Success of the commercial centre on the subject site could be at the expense of town centre sustainability,” it notes.

The property, which totals 45 acres between the Haney Bypass and highway, is listed in the Commercial and Industrial Strategy as a possible site for a business park, or for a post-secondary institute.

But a consultant’s report says the area isn’t suitable for industrial use because of slopes and ravines in the area and because parcel sizes are too small, while commercial use is incompatible with the homes to the west. G.P. Rollo and Associates, another consultant often used by the city, supports that conclusion.

Building 38,750 sq. feet of commercial space would be almost four times the amount of area allowed under the official community plan.

Instead, staff offer up options for developing the site.

The proposal could be reworked to remove the shopping centre and have only residential; or a smaller portion of either 10,000 sq. feet or 20,000 sq. feet could be allotted for shopping, the former in accordance with the official community plan, the latter requiring a plan amendment.

Or the entire property could be considered for business park use.

If council decides to accept the proposal as is, it could order a report to study the impact of commercial development on the downtown, Albion flats or other commercial areas.

The application proposes to have the commercial area front on to the highway. But that would be outside the boundary of the town centre, which the city wants to protect.

The property previously was planned to be the location of a road connecting Dewdney Trunk Road to the bypass, but those plans have long been abandoned. The area also was earlier planned to be the point where a bridge connecting Langley was to connect to Maple Ridge, before the Golden Ears Bridge was built.

Maple Ridge council saw the proposal at its committee meeting Monday and sent it on to future meeting without comment.