News Views: Smart Swap?

The offer is worth considering, Maple Ridge can't build homes forever

Smart Centres wants to swap land in the agricultural reserve on the west side of 105th Avenue in the Albion flats for that of the same on the east side of the aforementioned street.

The difference, besides soil stability and wildlife habitat concerns on the west side, is that the Agricultural Land Commission has said it would entertain the idea of removing land on the east side from the reserve.

That way Smart Centres could build its mall and the sensitive west lands could be preserved and used for agricultural purposes – such as creating new fairgrounds –  which, in turn, would make shoppers, voters and politicians happy.

That’s the way Smart Centres sees it, and Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin is at least warm to the land swap idea.

Council will discuss it.

Besides the matter of agricultural land, the other potential problem with the proposed deal is how a large scale commercial development would affect the downtown. But development downtown has come a long way in the past three years. The district spent millions fixing up Memorial Peace Park and two main streets. The main mall is getting a face-lift and new anchor tenants. And new apartments are popping up all over the place.

Smart Centres’ land swap seems to have few drawbacks, and the district has experience with lands swaps, having negotiated to preserve much of Jackson Farm in Albion as a park.

As demonstrated in the last municipal election, there is a clear desire for more shopping in Maple Ridge, to keep discretionary dollars close to home, also to create jobs and increase the commercial tax base. And the Albion area, with its expansive growth, is woefully under-served.

The timing is right for such a proposal, if done in concert with further growth plans for the area, including land there south of the train  tracks.

It’s a compromise worth considering. Maple Ridge can’t just keep building homes forever.

– The News