A Pitt Meadows mayoral candidate is questioning the timing of a city celebration for an Onni contribution of new recreational land and the suggested uses for it.
Coun. Bill Dingwall thinks the community celebration was premature, that council wasn’t consulted properly about the event on July 30, and that a parks and master plan process should have taken place first.
Dingwall doesn’t like how Mayor John Becker is handling the eight-acre amenity contribution by Onni Group Development, as part of the approval for phases 3 and 4 of its business park in South Bonson.
Dingwall, who has declared his intention to run for mayor, also said Becker jumped the gun by raising expectations about the land as far back as 2016 – 21 months before final approval of the Onni project and ahead of the parks and recreation master plan review, which is scheduled to take place this fall.
The municipal election is in October.
“Expectations were raised without following our own community engagement process,” Dingwall wrote in a Facebook post with a reference to a 2016 meeting of the Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball Association that Becker spoke at about possible land use plans for the property.
Onni has provided 13 acres of green space, including eight acres of parkland and five acres of an enhanced trail network.
The city has estimated the value of the contribution to be $22.5 million, which Dingwall disputes, and invited the public to attend a “celebration” to kickstart civic input for the eight acres of recreational space, located just west of Pitt Meadows Arenas and athletic fields.
Dingwall said he wasn’t aware of the community event until just before the public was informed.
“You hire an emcee and you invite all of the community groups and you do up a billboard, that sort of thing, and it doesn’t come to council,” asked Dingwall.
“It should have.”
Dingwall also pointed out that the city doesn’t own the property yet, despite having a groundbreaking ceremony.
“For me, this was a rushed event and it should have been following process and following our parks and rec planning scehedule,” he said.
Becker contends that council knew about the event at least two weeks before it happened.
“Our practice going back many councils is that staff organize events, and as soon as the dates are set, council gets notification,” said Becker.
Council members were all notified at the same time and it was at least two weeks, he added.
Becker also said that well before he ran in the 2014 election, he felt that the city should be getting a significant amenity contribution from Onni, which for the first two phases of the business park contributed $200,000 towards the skate park off Harris Road.
Becker said he started asking the community before he was elected mayor what it wanted to see.
“Talking to residents north, south, east and west in this community, it was very clear to me that what residents wanted – they wanted expanded recreational capacity down around the athletic park. In other words, land.”
Becker said the recent Onni contribution has been part of council table discussion for a couple of years and he carried on talking with the community, including sports groups, as well as those for seniors groups and people with special needs.
“Those groups and individuals were very supportive of the notion of increasing the land base around the athletic park. That’s also been identified in the master plan that we had with Maple Ridge under the old parks and recreation commission model. So the need for additional recreational areas is absolutely not new,” said Becker, adding that there is nothing premature about this process.
“It is in full alignment with the traditional parks and rec master plan from a decade ago and it is in full alignment with our parks and recreation engagement plans now,” said Becker.
Although Dingwall continues to oppose industrial lands beside that for residential in South Bonson, he said that now that the third phase has been approved, proper planning has to take place around the new eight acres.
“We need to have proper consultation with our citizens and figure out what we need and see how much dollars we have,” he said.
“This is not about one association or another, it’s about our community and it’s about what the community wants,” said Dingwall.
Before the property can be handed over to the city, it has to be subdivided, the filling process has to be completed, the land has to be surveyed and environmental assessments have to be redone.
Becker expects the process to, “ramp up pretty significantly come the early fall.”