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Public questions ‘University District’ at TWU

Plenty of Langley residents packed Township council chambers Monday night — despite the snowy weather — to tell Township councillors how they feel about a proposed amendment and rezoning at Trinity Western University.

The proposed changes will amend the Township of Langley’s Rural Plan and rezone 23.4 acres of land located at 7645 and 7679 Glover Rd. and 22423 Labonte Ave to Residential Institutional Zone P-3 “to support the future expansion of Trinity Western University.”

The Rural Plan amendment includes provisions for a ‘University District’ that is envisioned to be “a high-quality, integrated university community with a diversity of learning, recreational, cultural, employment and housing opportunities.”

Township notes say the creation of the ‘University District’ will happen incrementally, with future proposals to be considered by council on a “site by site” basis “within the context of the ‘University District’ provisions.”

Langley resident Doug McFee questioned the details of the proposal at Monday’s public hearing.

“A ‘University District’ — what the heck is that?” he said.

“There’s nothing in here that says what it is, or what ‘University District provisions’ are ... it sounds a lot to me like piecemeal planning.”

He noted Mayor Jack Froese’s campaign promise of a “development task force” and urged him to “make the ‘University District’ Case Study No. 1.”

At a mayoral debate prior to the November municipal election, Froese told Langley residents that, as mayor, “I will immediately put together a community planning task force to explore how the Township of Langley is working with the development industry, the community and the government to involve all parties in the planning process and create a new model that everyone can be happy with.”

Langley residents Michael Robson and Leslie Dyson spoke about the importance of keeping agricultural land in the Agriculture Land Reserve rather than always rezoning for development.

“People move to Langley because of its green space,” Robson said.

“The majority of the Township is in the ALR but the land is not as valuable as this is ... the community is not giving enough attention to the retention of agricultural land,” he said.

Dyson said the Township is the “bread basket” of the Lower Mainland and asked council to have courage when making a decision.

Fort Langley resident Rodney Blackwell questioned the effect the proposal may have on the floodplain and said that the Township must pay attention to guidelines set out in the Right To Farm Act.

If development is allowed that increases flooding in the floodplain, the municipality may well be responsible for millions in remedial work costs, Blackwell said, pointing to a similar situation with Surrey’s Serpentine River that cost that municipality money.

Oleg Verbenkov, a senior planner and principal at Pacific Land Group, said the intent of creating a ‘University District’ at TWU is to make a “ Live, Work, Study and Research Community” that is vibrant, walkable and sustainable.

“It is intended to evolve to match the growing needs of the public,” he said.

The public hearing was adjourned until Monday (Jan. 23) at 7 p.m. after a motion from Councillor Kim Richter, in order to allow people who didn’t venture out because of the weather to speak on the subject.

The TWU proposal and another contentious item — a bylaw to rezone 13.5 acres on the nearby Wall Farm property, in order to develop 67 units and 21 coach homes — are both on the public hearing agenda.

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