The City of Maple Ridge was caught by surprise when it was announced that the historic Hammond Cedar sawmill would be shut down, leaving the future of the industrial site in question.
“The loss of the mill was not expected by the city or the neighbourhood and thus no pre-planning of the site was done when the Hammond Area Plan was adopted in early 2017,” said Chuck Goddard, director of planning.
The 109-year-old mill was closed as part of a reorganization of Interfor Corp.’s coastal operations, resulting in about 200 people losing their jobs and leaving the future of the site unknown.
“Generally speaking, the official community plan supports retention of all our current industrial designated lands in the city,” Goddard explained.
“There is also a general shortage of industrial land in the region and many communities are looking for a way to increase the supply. We are also looking for additional lands in the range of approximately 200-plus acres for future industrial uses.”
The former sawmill site (20580 Maple Cres.) is currently zoned for general industrial (M-2), which allows for a significant range of industrial uses, he added.
In the city’s recently adopted commercial industrial strategy, future industrial land has been set aside along Lougheed Highway, east of 240th Street, and lands at the northern end of 256th Street, according to Goddard.
But as the strategy outlines, Maple Ridge is still forecasting to face a shortage of industrial lands within 10 years.
The area is currently marketed as an industrial site and Goddard said the city has had a few inquiries, but the new owner could seek to rezone the site for a business park (M-3).
“Which, in my opinion, might be a good fit with the existing residential homes nearby,” he said. “I would think the impacts would be fewer with such users.”
However, residential use could also be a possibility.
“A rezoning to residential use would require a significantly more complicated process. A regional land use designation change would have to occur and be difficult to justify,” Goddard explained.
“I would think this would require another public engagement process with Hammond residents before council would consider a non-industrial use of some or all of the site.”
City staff would prefer the site remain for industrial use, as it works to develop more lands for that same use.
“Such new lands will allow more Maple Ridge residents to work with the city boundaries, reduce commuting and thus our carbon footprint, support the local economy and improve our tax base and reduce the tax burden on our residential property tax base,” Goddard said.