Thornhill expansion left for next Maple Ridge council

Decade-old report puts says such plans would cost taxpayers $362 M

One of Maple Ridge council’s last issues on one of its last agendas was suburban expansion to Thornhill but the topic was too touchy  to talk about Monday.

Instead, council left the report to the new council, to be elected Nov. 15.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie said the report, on council’s work plan, was just an update of the factors that have to be present before expansion occurs east of 248th Street.

“What is the benefit of this, at this time?” she asked at council’s workshop.

“It’s a body of work that’s so far out there. The angst that will come out of this, is not worth it.”

According to the official community plan, Maple Ridge’s population has to hit 100,000, and build out has to occur in the rest of the city before suburban growth occurs in Thornhill.

Expanding before that time would cost taxpayers.

“Development in Thornhill would result in an oversupply of residential land in the municipality and would be a very costly endeavour for taxpayers,” staff warn.

The decision in 2004 to include Thornhill for more houses was the most expensive option for more homes, ringing up to more than $362 million in infrastructure costs, according to a study.

Recently, council heard that extending Metro Vancouver water to Thornhill would cost Maple Ridge $40 million.

That topic came up when council was considering its wildfire protection plan and Thornhill residents wanted municipal water service and fire hydrants to help them protect homes from forest fires.

However, staff say that fire hydrants won’t stop a forest fire.

Planning director Christine Carter said that staff, over the weekend, received e-mails and letters saying that council will ask staff to reverse previous policies on Thornhill.

Coun. Al Hogarth said information and feedback on the area should be included along with the staff report for the next council.

“We’ve had three years of feedback. That three years of feedback has certainly enlightened, I think, some of the issues that are out there,” said Hogarth, a realtor.

“I question whether or not we should just forego our knowledge and feedback on it and pretend it didn’t happen. I think there are some issues that have risen here and keep rising. There is some value in having some discussion, at least for the next council.”

Council agreed unanimously to forward the Thornhill report to the new council.

Carter said staff will review the correspondence sent to council, add it to the report and comment on it before referral to the incoming council.

The report notes that Maple Ridge is growing more slowly than expected, which will delay the time until subdivision takes place in Thornhill.

A decade ago, Maple Ridge was supposed to hit a population of 109,000 by 2031.

But Metro Vancouver’s 2013 regional growth strategy says it will reach 118,000 by 2041.