A commercial and industrial development on the Lougheed Highway at Harris Road hit a roadblock in 2014, but Pitt Meadows council should move the contentious North Lougheed Corridor issue closer to resolution in 2015.
Coun. Janis Elkerton said it would make sense for the developer to build on the 18 hectares of land already available, which is not farmland.
“We should look at the land outside of the Agricultural Land Reserve that isn’t conditional on the road being built,” she opined.
The North Lougheed land is a 51 hectare site at the northeast corner of the intersection, is owned by commercial developer SmartCentres.
The project was moving forward, but was blocked by a stalemate at the council table. After MLA Doug Bing resigned his position as councillor in January, Pitt council was left with six members.
Former Mayor Deb Walters was supported by councillors Tracey Miyashita and Gwen O’Connell, but opposed by Bruce Bell, David Murray and Elkerton.
Without a majority, motions to approve plans for the site were lost in a 3-3 vote on Sept. 16.
The Agricultural Land Commission approved removal of the farmland at the site from the Agricultural Land Reserve, with the condition that new routes through the area shift traffic off Old Dewdney Trunk Road – which is often used to move farm equipment.
However, Elkerton said council has a report showing the proposed road would take little traffic off Old Dewdney Trunk, and cost as much as $10 million for the city to build.
Elkerton also noted that there is opposition in the community to developing on farmland, and noted the 33 hectares is working farmland.
The trio opposing the plans argued that building the North Lougheed Connector, a road to service the site, and an overpass at Harris Road, could cost taxpayers close to $20 million for the city’s share in the costs. They argued that the jobs to be created were not family sustaining jobs.
SmartCentres said the development would bring 600,000 square feet of new retail commercial space, bringing 1,200 retail jobs, and two million square feet of mixed employment, and up to 9,000 new office and industrial jobs.
Miyashita said council needs to see a more detailed cost/benefit analysis of the development, with estimated tax revenue and jobs.
“There’s a misconception that it’s all going to be big box stores, and that was never the vision,” said Miyashita, noting that office space and smaller stores were to be included in the development.
“In order for us to move forward, people on council need to see more detail,” she said.
“In principle, I support it because there’s a lot of potential benefit to the community.”
Newly elected Mayor John Becker has said council should deal with the issue in a timely manner.
To do nothing, or let the issue sit, is not fair to SmartCentres, which has invested “time, treasure and talent” in its proposal.