Maple Ridge council voted unanimously on Tuesday to stop – temporarily at least – the process of rezoning a designated school site in Silver Valley.
Council supported Bob Masse’s quest for more information before deciding the fate of property at 23103 136th Ave.
In the District’s Official Community Plan (OCP), the privately owned site is designated for a future school.
But after being asked by the District of Maple Ridge, the school district announced it does not need that site and does not intend to purchase it. The school district has stated they only need two of four school sites in Silver Valley given the change in demographics.
That decision has ruffled the feathers of some residents in the area.
At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Maple Ridge staff recommended passing first reading on the rezoning application. But Masse put forward the alternative motion. He wants the school district to clarify what the scope of an upcoming facilities review would be and which two school sites it plans to use.
Councillor Cheryl Ashlie argued against giving the rezoning application first reading, saying she didn’t understand the school board’s rationale for saying they don’t want the lot, known as the Blaney school site.
“We need to sit down collectively and see how do we preserve the integrity of the Silver Valley plan,” she said.
The school sites in Silver Valley are “integral” to the plan, she added, “and if we’re going to change that, it should be done collectively, it should not by one government body.”
By passing first reading on the application, it would give the “wrong message” because it shows council is moving away from the Silver Valley plan without all the components they need for the decision, Ashlie added.
Coun. Al Hogarth didn’t – at first – support Masse’s motion and Coun. Mike Morden warned against a legal challenge. But later, they both voted to support it.
Hogarth argued first against Masse’s motion, but later said he was convinced by Ashlie’s arguments to support it.
Morden said he would support Masse’s motion to show unanimity on council, but he warned there would be a legal challenge to their decision.
He pointed out that the municipality is mandated by the province to have an OCP, and now they are stuck with having to take back that work. He questioned whether they should be reviewed more regularly
The property has been “tied up” for 15 years, Morden said, adding that the “owners have been very patient with us.”
Councillor Corisa Bell said that during her time on council, any application that has received first reading from council has gone through the full approval process and has been realized.
Councillor Judy Dueck excused herself from the Silver Valley discussion and decision stating that members of the Silver Valley Action group, that is lobbying to keep the school site, suggested she in conflict of interest because she works for the school district. Dueck is the health and safety officer for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district.
“It was with great stress that she walked away from this table,” said Ashlie after Dueck excused herself from the meeting.