A different proposal for the Albion flats

Most people, I think, realize that, unlike abuse victims, land developers do not believe that no means no.

Editor, The News:

Re: Land swap for Albion mall? (The News, June 6).

Smart Centres must receive an A-plus for dogged persistence.

Most people, I think, realize that, unlike abuse victims, land developers do not believe that no means no.

When public hearings are held and the prevailing sentiment is positive, that is seen as an endorsement for full speed ahead.

If, however, the public opinion is predominantly negative, then the chess and waiting games begin. It is back to the strategic drawing board.

If  public opinion is ignored, perhaps it will be possible to influence a change to the official community plan; or wait until the next municipal election and vote for a more supportive council.

Maybe one could wait until a future provincial election and hope that the mandate and makeup of the ALR will take a more pro-industrial land-use position.

Another tried and true tactic is to keep your eye on the desired land parcel, but also buy up many parcels to use as bargaining chips for future land swaps when preconditions are more favourable.

Of course, if one sits on these many land parcels for a long enough, the appreciation of those properties will offset concessions that may be made in a future land swap.

Now that is good business.

Another article states “Ridge first to benefit from pro planner.” This is true and kudos to Maple Ridge council. Municipalities such as Surrey own hundreds of acres and green space. This puts them in a strong position to better determine the direction of future development.

The article also states that land assembly is one of the biggest impediments to developers.

Maple Ridge owns relatively little industrial land and the acquisition of the blocks near Selkirk Avenue and 227th Street was an excellent purchase. The district now has greater ability to create a vibrant, safe, urban village in the downtown core.

On the other hand, it may make more sense to put another big box mall near the district’s perimeter and suck the life out of the downtown core.

Land assembly does not seem to be an issue for developers like Smart Centers, which appears able to assemble land beyond immediate needs. However, if it is possible to get the municipality to shoulder the cost and effort of strategic land assembly, now that is good business.

And now a modest proposal.

Maple Ridge needs to brand itself.

Looking around, one sees our access to farms, rivers, lakes, mountains, equestrian pursuits, outdoor recreation, our seniors centre and supportive living and services for seniors, the ACT, the thousands of young people enrolled in dance and music, good schools, access to roads, rail, air and water transport  and our strategic central location within the Lower Mainland.

These characteristics seem to define what we uniquely have to build an identity around, not another big box mall in the Albion flats.

Central to this is a more relaxed rural flavour anchored by our agricultural base.

What is proposed:

• Tax shifting that would give an agricultural producer’s tax reduction credit to all working agriculturally zoned properties within the municipal boundaries. This would also apply to all small captured lots that too often are held by speculators and developers waiting to have them rezoned. Often they are isolated by design in order to bolster the argument that the lands are now surrounded by residential zoning and  are no long suited to agricultural use.

• Any non-worked agriculturally zoned land would require an agricultural crop rotation, planting and harvesting plan or they would be assessed a substantial agricultural non-compliance tax. The purpose of this would be to end speculators from buying up, then not using or actively degrading agricultural land.

• A second option for those holding agricultural land, but not wanting to work it themselves would be to turn its agricultural production over to an agricultural producer’s cooperative that would be operated by an umbrella cooperative organization (perhaps to be developed by the farmers’ market organization).

• The agricultural tax bonus due the land owner would be used to pay the cooperative for working the land and they would return a percentage of product or income to the land owner.

• Land owners not wanting to work the land or turn its agricultural development over to the producer’s cooperative would be assessed a substantial tax penalty. This income would be used to support the cooperative and agricultural innovation in the region.

Progressive cities are taking food production and distribution seriously. It is about business. It is about jobs.

Maple Ridge – the city of innovation, arts and outdoor fun?

Robert Hornsey

Maple Ridge

 

Editor’s note: Robert Hornsey is a past candidate in municipal and federal  elections and co-owner of  a business in downtown Maple Ridge.

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