How sprawl could rule elections

Urban sprawl should be one of the most important election campaign issues in either Pitt Meadows or Maple Ridge.

Because of the almost permanent impact it will cause, urban sprawl should be one of the most important election campaign issues in either Pitt Meadows or Maple Ridge.

The record of Pitt Meadows council over the years has lessened the current impact of urban sprawl in that city, but the diminishing amount of suitable land available for residential, commercial or industrial use will create enormous pressure to expand the urban boundaries.

That is where the threat of urban sprawl will raise its ugly head.

Almost for certain there will be future pressure to consider urban uses and densities of undeveloped properties north of Pitt Meadows, such as Thompson Mountain and some of the properties currently included in the golf courses in the same area.

The land currently available for residential use in Pitt Meadows is almost totally developed and that will make the land north of the city an attractive target for developers.

Pitt Meadows civic politicians will, of course, state their opposition to such urban expansion, but you must remember that almost every recent commercial, industrial and residential development in that city has taken place in a sprawling attack on agricultural lands.

It isn’t too much of a stretch to imagine city council favourably considering residential uses on sites currently separated from the existing urban core.

Any decision to support such sprawl will only add to the current traffic and transit woes which threaten to strangle the city.

The other major land use questions for Pitt Meadows will involve the proposed commercial strip north of the Lougheed Highway and the taxes that would generate, and how to achieve the long desired CPR overpass without that commercial expansion, assuming that the overpass would be constructed along the Nathan Allen corridor.

Sprawl in Maple Ridge has been a fact of life for at least the past three decades, as successive municipal councils leap-frogged over land adjacent to the existing urban boundaries to create small-lot subdivisions in Albion and the loftier development of Silver Valley.

There is also the matter of successive councils attempting to sell their souls in dealing with the Albion flats, where they propose a monster commercial development that could, if it proceeds, sound the death knell for the struggling downtown commercial core.

It should be understood that the main push for development of the Albion flats is pretty much a direct result of premature urban residential expansion in the Albion area. This is urban sprawl at its finest.

It is like a municipal version of Field of Dreams: build it and they will come.

And it has been done without much consideration of its impact on the rest of Maple Ridge.

Development of Silver Valley only became possible with the advent more than 30 years ago of the official community plan, which designated Silver Valley as an urban reserve.

But development wasn’t supposed to begin until there had been substantial in-fill in the existing urban area.

It’s been more than 20 years since the urban reserve designation was removed and the first rezoning and subdivision of Silver Valley was approved.

Municipal council had mandated certain requirements were to be included in that urban expansion. Those items were schools, parks and local commercial elements.

Here we are, 20 years on, and there is still no schools, few parks, no commercial elements and but a few scattered sidewalks for children who must walk a mile or more to Yennadon elementary.

Ironically, according to many residents, there is still plenty of undeveloped land within the former urban area.

It will be interesting to potential voters to see how incumbents or new candidates approach these subjects.

Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.