Unsecured buildings and vacant properties in Maple Ridge are concerning council, prompting bylaws and further investigation into encouraging development and discourage land speculation.
At a recent council meeting, Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin said he was "disappointed" development wouldn't be taking place at the former Northumberland Court for the foreseeable future.
The former townhouse complex, notorious as a magnet for criminal activity, was shut down and demolished, and a new townhouse complex plan was given first reading by council two years ago.
But, nothing has been heard from the developer since August 2011, so District staff recommended the file be closed.
In the meantime, Maple Ridge council is tackling vacant buildings with increased fees for inspections. But Councillor Cheryl Ashlie also wants to see if there is anything more that can be done to discourage absentee landowners.
She put forward a notice of motion at last week's council meeting asking staff to review "all available strategies" or to "design progressive strategies" to help the District encourage "timely and appropriate" development in the downtown area and in the Albion Flats.
In her rationale, she said that Maple Ridge could become a target of investment that is only use to "broaden an investment portfolio," tying up key real estate.
Ashlie would like to know if there are more "tools" out there that would encourage development in Maple Ridge.
While the answer that comes back from staff might be that council is "very limited" in what they can do to discourage lands sitting idle, Ashlie said she still wants the questions to be asked.
The town core incentive program provides a "carrot." But maybe, she said, there's a need for a "stick," adding quick clarification that she meant that in "the most inviting way."
Ashlie said she hopes that the District can find ways to "incent people to not just sit idle," and to make holding land as an investment "the least desirable endpoint."
"If we can't do anything, I want to know we can't do anything," Ashlie said.
Referring to the Northumberland Court lot on
Fraser Street, Ashlie pointed out that the District still has "a hole in an area that needs to be revitalized."
The vacant and abandoned building bylaw that council dealt with this week at their committee meeting would require property owners of vacant buildings to ensure they are secured so no one can get in.
If an inspector finds a building isn't secure, the owner can be required to put up window barriers, install fencing, and post a security guard.
Re-inspection fees can be imposed if the building is later found later to still be unsecured, and those fees could rise incrementally up to $2,400.
The vacant/abandoned building bylaw will come to Maple Ridge council on Nov. 27.