The City of Pitt Meadows, against the protestations of its citizens, wants to fix a traffic problem by building a big-box retail strip mall on 80 acres of ALR-protected farmland.
Read that again. That is the case Pitt Meadows successfully made to the Agricultural Land Commission.
Boggles. The. Mind.
The longer version of the story is thus:
You see, Old Dewdney Trunk Road (ODT Road) is a rural two-lane that runs through farmland in Pitt Meadows north of Lougheed Highway. Mostly protected from development by the Agricultural Land Reserve, the ODT Road area is mostly larger farms, and protected from the strip mall and low-density housing explosion that has grown around Lougheed Highway – stretching almost undisturbed from Coquitlam Centre to Haney. Problem is, being the “back route” around the inevitable Lougheed Highway congestion, ODT Road is suffering from more traffic than the old rural two-lane is designed for.
This problem was apparent in the 1990s, but Pitt Meadows was not all that concerned, because the Pitt River Bridge was being expanded, and more lanes of Lougheed were being built. As a bonus, the Golden Ears Bridge was coming to take some of the traffic load off of Pitt Meadows, and a brand new semi-express way was being blasted through farmlands to the east, providing easy access to the Golden Ears Bridge for all those single-family homes that have been built out around Abernethy Way, which was all, notably, farmland less than 30 years ago. Pitt Meadows was not worried, because with all these new roads being built, traffic congestion on Lougheed would soon be a thing of the past- and ODT Road could go back to serving local farmers.
Except, of course, the roads did not take the traffic away, the roads brought more traffic. With easy highway access came more single-family homes that can not be served adequately by transit when TransLink is cutting services, and came more strip-mall retail shops to serve the needs of the growing car-dependent community. Few real family-supporting jobs are created in these strip malls, so people cannot actually work near their single-family home, and commuter traffic inevitably got worse, not better, with the new roads. That is what we call Induced Demand.
So the City of Pitt Meadows, shocked (shocked!) that these new roads have not fixed their traffic problem, has found a solution: one more road. This is where we get the proposed “North Lougheed Connector”. Problem is, after the Ministry of Transportation blew their budget on the Pitt River Bridge and Lougheed Highway improvements to fix the traffic problem in Pitt Meadows, and TransLink is bleeding through the ears in part because of a shitty Golden Ears Bridge toll deal that was supposed to fix the traffic problem in Pitt Meadows, neither have the money to build this one last road that will finally fix the traffic problem in Pitt Meadows. Even with all the single-family home building and strip malls, Pitt Meadows doesn’t have the money to fix the traffic problem in Pitt Meadows.
Along come Smart Centres, strip-mall builders of some fame. They have the money to fix the traffic problem in Pitt Meadows. They are more than happy to build a short stretch of highway through land they don’t own (because like the Golden Ears Way, and a fair chunk of the South Fraser Perimeter Road, the North Lougheed Connector will be built on protected ALR land, no need to exclude from the ALR for roadbuilding, alas). Only catch is that the new road has to include off-ramps to their parking lots for their new strip mall. The parking lots and strip mall they want to build happen to be on land they bought at ALR rates, and that they will lease out at Commercial rates now that they can get more than 80 acres of that that cheap land out of the ALR just for building a road through more ALR. Good business if you can get it.
|The 80 Acres in question is between the golf course and Harris Road. Click to enlarge.|
It is the circle of progress: build low-density housing on ALR land, build freeways and bridges to access them (if someone suggests alternatives like density, transit, or bike lanes, cry “tax grab!”), when traffic gets too busy, build more roads, take more land out of the ALR and build houses on that land to fund it, lather, rinse, repeat.
So why do I, a local blogger in New Westminster care about Pitt Meadows strip malls? Because this is, boiled down to its essence, New Westminster’s traffic problem. When TransLink or the Ministry of Asphalt talk about the North Fraser Perimeter Road– turning local New Westminster streets into highways for through-traffic, it is this strip mall in Pitt Meadows that will be at the east end of that highway. Traffic problems being generated by bad planning in the Pitt Meadows (Surrey, Langley, etc.) today will be used as an excuse to destroy the livability of New Westminster.
The ALR does more than protect agricultural land, it protects the livability of our region. Don’t let Bill Bennett destroy it.