Opinion

Time to face reality

Talks between Maple Ridge and Smart Centres mall company apparently are dragging on, presumably coming down to the shorter strokes, as a municipal election looms this fall.

After months of tough talking and insanely intricate bargaining, some kind of deal must almost be ready to allow a shopping mall in Albion flats at 105th Avenue and Lougheed Highway.

No one knows exactly, because negotiations are secret and taxpayers only will learn of the final deal once it’s been signed.

But it can’t be easy to reach a deal.

Smart Centres’ gamble of buying farmland on the west side of 105th Avenue, then taking it out of the Agricultural Land Reserve and reaping handsome profits didn’t pay off because the land commission has been firm in its resolve that the west remain within the reserve while the east side of 105th Avenue can be developed.

As a result, Smart Centres wants to trade its 20 acres west of 105th Avenue with the district’s 17 acres on the east side.

Part of the talks are figuring out the real value of Maple Ridge’s land, where development can happen, in comparison with Smart Centre’s undevelopable land on the west side of 105th Avenue.

Environmental issues, floods and earthquakes, the effect on the narrow roads and nearby suburbs and how it all can happen without the taxpayer bearing excessive costs, all must be resolved.

No wonder it’s taking so long.

So, perhaps, the district should abandon its obsession with a big box mall in Albion flats.

Perhaps, by walking away from such a project, which contradicts its focus on the downtown, it would signal renewed commitment to Maple Ridge’s funky centre.

Thanks to wise council policies in the past decade, the downtown is thriving, though it’s got a way to go.

Perhaps, by abandoning the Albion flats, a signal can be sent, that with the risk of diluting the market no longer present, downtown development can speed ahead.

– The News

 

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