The Agricultural Land Commission has rejected Maple Ridge’s plan to develop all of the Albion flats.
In the district’s request for comment, the ALC said land west of 105th Avenue – much of which is owned by mall developer SmartCentres – is suitable for agricultural use, despite drainage issues, and should stay in the reserve.
However, the commission agreed that land east of 105th Ave., towards 240th Street, has limited agricultural potential and could be considered for development.
The new council released the ALC’s comments Monday at its swearing-in ceremony following last month’s municipal election, during which voters decidedly elected pro-development members.
The timing of this announcement has raised suspicions, and riled those who desire a large-scale shopping development on the flats, an issue dating back a decade in Maple Ridge and one that dominated the recent election.
Maple Ridge council must now – after expensive planning sessions to determine a direction for the flats earlier this year – formulate a proposal for part of the flats to submit to the ALC for exclusion consideration. SmartCentres and other landowners on the west side will also have to decide on a plan for their properties, although the ALC’s comments don’t lend much hope.
The district can try to ease disappointment by pointing to the ongoing development and further plans for building up the downtown area, including renovations by Thrifty Foods and the prospects of Target at Haney Place Mall.
But residents are already restless, tired of driving out of town to buy what they want. Others can criticize that point, claim they find what they need closer to home already.
The reality is, there is no quick fix.
Any development in the flats is years away.
Target doesn’t intend to start renovations to Zellers until 2013.
Other prime development locations downtown are still occupied by existing buildings, some of them vacant. The downtown properties purchased by the district a year ago have been cleared, but remain for sale.
If anything, the ALC’s comments intensify the focus where it should be – developing the downtown.
What’s needed now, unfortunately, or not, is patience.
– The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News