News Views: Stick to the plan

Allowing homes in Albion Industrial Area could devastate finances

Council heard a proposal Monday that mixed-used marina type and residential developments should be allowed in Albion Industrial Area.

It’s an exciting idea, one that’s been raised before, and promises some of the glamour of waterfront developments in big cities farther down the Fraser River.

Unfortunately, it’s one that could jeopardize the District of Maple Ridge’s future and finances.

Coun. Michael Morden made the proposal during discussions aimed at finding more industrial space so job-generating enterprises can move here and pay taxes and give struggling homeowners a break from constantly escalating property taxes.

What Morden was proposing was a mixed-use, waterfront-quay-type development in the 240th Street area, on the south side of the Lougheed Highway, the current location of a nice chunk of industrial activity that’s already contributing to Maple Ridge’s treasury.

Morden envisioned that houses, schools and shopping, even a long-desired West Coast Express station would be part of a “complete community” that would complement the planned commercial activity north of the highway, in the Albion flats.

Ordinarily, presenting a dream development would only win accolades and praise for daring to dream and building the community. But this concept, during a time when the district is searching for more industrial land, is potentially a fatal distraction, a reckless and irresponsible diversion.

Currently, the Albion Industrial Area – 84 acres of it between the Fraser River, Lougheed Highway and the CP Rail mainline – is the location of dozens of jobs, most paying above minimum wage, and the source of tax revenues for the district, the precise thing which Maple Ridge wants to increase to improve its finances.

But if mixed use, that is housing, is allowed in the area, the end result will be a gradual departure of industry and its property taxes.

The result would be the loss of a major part of Maple Ridge’s industrial tax base, likely to the benefit of Pitt Meadows and Mission, who’d be happy to take Maple Ridge’s industry.

In return, Maple Ridge would get another costly-to-service suburb, located in a flood-prone area, that doesn’t raise in property taxes what it consumes in services.

And with a marina-type development there, would the Canadian Overseas Group continue with its larger plan to build a waterfront development near 224th Street and the Port Haney Wharf, part of the downtown?

Staff have clearly advised that if such development occurs in the Albion Industrial Area, that the downtown would be polarized, a polite word for killing the town centre.

Sometimes, it’s just easier to stick to the plan, the official community plan and the downtown plan, and not waste council and staff energies with ideas that totally contradict the point of the exercise – to find new industrial space for Maple Ridge.

– The News