A few months ago some of our municipal councillors got their shirts in knot. Despite their hopes and wishes for the development of the downtown core, things were not going well.
Their plans and aspirations for our downtown were apparently being held up by a few property owners who, for one reason or another, were not ready to develop now in the way they wanted it. They sounded frustrated, and publicly lamented that there should be a law that would force private landowners to develop their lands. (I know. it sounds like Russia!)
There is an incredibly ironic story here. In the 1970s, the municipality, through its one-man planning and development department of Bill Burrell, who was an incredible contributor to our community, realized that, in the future, single-family lots in our core would be an impediment to grander buildings.
The area between 227th Street and the land that is now the Haney Place Mall was what he called "frozen." Before any development plans could be accepted, they had to accumulate at least three lots.
A few years ago, the lots were purchased by a company that was connected to the casino business, and they envisioned a large, mixed-use development that included a casino.
When BC Lotteries indicated there was no support for a large casino in Maple Ridge, BC Lotteries encouraged the municipality to endorse a gaming centre.
The municipal officials of the day persuaded Lotteries selected contractor, Great Canadian Gaming Corp., to undertake development of the community's worst ongoing environmental contamination at Lougheed Highway and 227th Street.
By agreeing to develop that property, Great Canadian undertook to clean up the toxic environmental residue from the previous cement plant, radiator business, and a host of chemicals (lead and zinc amongst them) that were in the soil.
The creek that ran through there had been declared dead. Cleanup is underway.
That decision brings us back to the property that had been accumulated for the purpose of a casino.
The developer put the property on the market, and surprisingly, the municipal council bought the property with taxpayers' money well over a year ago.
After spending more of our tax dollars on studies and consultants, the current council has now decided to hold the land it bought off the market.
So while our councillors were complaining about the people who wouldn't develop the land, the largest offender was them, with our money.
Gordy Robson's column appears Tuesdays in the print and/or online versions of The TIMES. Questions and reactions can be emailed c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.
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