Wildfire plan could drive up building costs in Maple Ridge

Developments adjacent to forested areas in Maple Ridge, like Silver Valley, could be subject to the new Wildfire Development Permit Area

Developments adjacent to forested areas

Developments adjacent to forested areas

The District of Maple Ridge’s new Community Wildfire Protection Plan could drive up the cost of new home construction due to new regulations on developments in forested areas.

Part of the wildfire plan includes developing a Wildfire Development Permit Area to make sure buildings in forest interface areas use FireSmart landscaping schemes, materials and setbacks to protect from wildfires.

“This will drive up the costs for development permits,” said Coun. Mike Morden. “We have to look at our [official community plan] and ask if it makes sense to develop in these areas. It could become cost prohibitive.”

New residential developments carved into the forest, like Silver Valley and Rock Ridge, would be the likely targets of the permit, once approved.

At Monday’s council workshop meeting, Maple Ridge fire chief Peter Grootendorst told Maple Ridge council that climate change has caused a “significant” increase in forest fires, while residential development in forested areas increases the risk from those forest fires.

“The more we go into the forest interface, the more likely we will have a forest fire,” he said.

Sixty per cent of Maple Ridge is adjacent to forested land.

“If you want to live in the north end of Silver Valley, you are going to have to pay the price,” said Morden.

Counsellors unanimously ratified the plan at Tuesday’s council meeting, agreeing that it was needed to protect homes for forest fires.

“After Kelowna, a lot of lessons were learned,” said Coun. Judy Dueck on Monday. “If we want to go into these areas, there needs to be a cost to it.”

The Maple Ridge Fire Department and District of Maple Ridge planning department will both be holding information sessions in coming months, before bringing the permit plan back to council.

Coun. Al Hogarth noted that given the numerous changes to the building code being proposed, consultation with builders and the province will be necessary.

“I’m totally in favour,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We just have to make sure we’re going to be able to do it.”

The Maple Ridge Fire Department received grant funding from the Union of B.C. Municipalities in 2006 to develop the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which was rolled out in 2007.

• For more information about protecting your home from a forest fire, visit www.mapleridge.ca.