Municipal governments in B.C. have a limited menu of responsibilities. They send delegates to regional bodies to haggle over various things, but their direct control is restricted mostly to fire protection, local streets, community recreation space and urban land use. And policing, in the odd handful of municipalities that have opted out of using the federal Mounted Police…
Anyway, the urban land use decisions have the most durable consequences. Each of the close to 30 cities and towns in the Lower Mainland has a slightly different look and feel, based on local council votes that took place 20, 30 or more years ago. This includes how much space to devote to pavement, but more important are the decisions around where to locate commercial development and how to connect it to neighbourhoods.
Pitt Meadows, with a population of 20,000, has an urban area that is bounded on the west and north by rich farming lands. Rhetorically, in my experience, Pitt Meadows councils have talked a lot about preserving a “rural feeling” and respecting the sanctity of the single-family lot.
However, the same councils have smuggled an urban village into place, very gradually, over a generation or more. This is despite the apparent lack of a detailed central area plan, or even a widely recognized name for the area. Town Centre? Downtown? Uptown? The 2009 official city plan uses Town Centre, and then devotes less than a page to the town centre’s function.
However, there’s a range of densified housing choice including a recent seniors’ complex, housing co-ops, condo apartments, and townhomes, and an interesting mix of retail services including a bookstore, independent travel agent and microbrew tasting lounge. The commercial area is split, inconveniently, by a busy rail line. To make the crossing, pedestrian visitors (and residents) are confined to Harris Road just at its noisiest stretch.
Co-tourist R.J. Smarz and I took a short walking tour south and east from City Hall that included a pleasant wooded trail. We had lunch on a Saturday at the Jolly Coachman pub, and it was very good.
[This is post #36 in our Urban Villages series.]