Maple Ridge council is scheduled to decide tonight (Tuesday) whether to explore a land swap deal with SmartCentres for property on the Albion Flats.
David Major, land development manager with SmartCentres, proposes the land swap at last Monday's committee of the whole meeting.
SmartCentres owns about 20 acres of land on the northwest side of 105th Avenue, which they suggested could be swapped with land owned by the District of the southeast side where the fairgrounds are currently situated.
In December, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) sent comments to Maple Ridge council indicating it considered the lands northwest of 105th Avenue to be viable for farming.
But they also indicated the lands southwest of 105th Avenue might be considered for exclusion from the land reserve.
SmartCentres also owns about 10 acres of land southeast of 105th Avenue, next to the District-owned lands.
At last Monday's meeting, Major said that the issues the company would look at would include relocating the agricultural fair buildings and solving the drainage problems on the northwest side.
In its December comments, the land commission also stated that while they are willing to "cooperate towards future commercial or industrial development" of the Albion Flats, it has to be done "in conjunction with the restoration" of the farmland northwest of 105th Avenue - this area has had drainage problems for many years.
Maple Ridge council will discuss the proposal presented by SmartCentres at the June 12 council meeting and consider whether to direct District staff to enter into discussions topic with the mall developer.
The big questions for Maple Ridge, said Mayor Ernie Daykin, will be the timing of a potential land swap and what benefits it would bring to the community and agriculture.
"I'm going to drive a hard bargain - a fair bargain," he said. "It's gotta be something that'll benefit Maple Ridge... It's far more than swapping X number of acres for Y," he said.
Daykin said it's important to keep moving forward on the Albion shopping issue, but he wants to approach the issue objectively with an "open mind."
"If it is an extra six months and we get something dynamite out of it, it's worth the six months," he added.
"Sometimes good things come to those who wait," said Daykin.
His job as mayor is to consider things brought before council and not outright say 'no,' Daykin elaborated.
But, he added, it's also not council's job to "roll over" and make everything work out for the shopping mall developer either.
SmartCentres met with representatives from the home show, the air cadets, and the agricultural fair - the main user groups of the fairgrounds - before making the proposal to council.
Fair manager Lorraine Bates said she has been getting a lot of questions about the proposed land swap.
A covenant was put in place when Planet Ice was built ensuring the land has to be supplied for the annual fair.
While some people might be worried about what it means for the fair, Bates said it could be advantageous if it means new buildings and more visibility closer to the highway.
Bates said the fairground is considered a "little jewel."
"It's beautiful and it has an ambiance of a country fair," Bates said, woindering if it's moved somewhere else, "will they be able to recreate it?"