Wall farm subdivision opposed

Three deer cross a driveway at the edge of the Wall farm property, in the snow on Saturday.  - Frank Bucholtz/Langley Times
Three deer cross a driveway at the edge of the Wall farm property, in the snow on Saturday.
— image credit: Frank Bucholtz/Langley Times

A plan to build 67 homes on land currently used for farming came under fire from a string of speakers at a public hearing on Monday.

The rezoning application has been filed by Wall Financial Corp. for 13.5 acres on the northeast corner of Glover Road and Highway 10, at 22415 72 Ave. The plan is to build coach houses on 18 of the 67 residential lots. Most of the property would remain as a farm.

The public hearing began on Jan. 16, but most of that hearing focused on a proposal by nearby Trinity Western University and the Township to amend the Rural Plan for three properties that are also the subject of rezoning. These parcels are at 7645 and 7679 Glover Road, and 22423 Labonte Cres. Both proposals are related to the creation of a “University District” in the TWU area.

The majority of speakers opposed that application, and at Monday’s hearing there was little appetite for the proposal on the Wall property.

The goal of the rezoning and Rural Plan amendment is to create a ‘university district,’ although accompanying documents fail to define the term.

The plan also involves transferring 52 acres adjacent to the Salmon River to the Township for conservation purposes.

“This is not a generous donation to the Township,” Gloria Stelting told council. “There is no gain to the Township to own it.”

Stelting was among many who warned of flooding in the lower regions of the property.

Furthermore, Stelting said, rezoning “may lead to more city-style development in rural Langley.”

The Salmon River flows alongside David O’Brien’s Fort Langley property. O’Brien spoke of his concerns of how the development would impact downstream properties.

Like other speakers, he feared the ripple effect of building houses on farmland.

“This is just going to extend to all other farms of substance in the area,” he warned council.

“It’s a mistake for council to consider this.”

At the Jan. 16 meeting, council was criticized for violating its own Rural Plan which allows homes on 20-acre parcels. That concern was repeated on Monday by speakers including Bays Blackhall, who told council it would have been a good idea had council consulted the community first.

Blackhall didn’t object to Trinity expanding, “but why have a Rural Plan if it’s not followed?” she asked, adding that for the past 40 years she and her husband have seen the environment “constantly under threat.”

Speakers told council of their concern that the development would increase traffic. Some wondered which school children from the new subdivision would attend.

Several residents spoke of the need for traffic lights at 232 Street and 72 Avenue, an intersection at the south end of the Highway 1/232 Street interchange, which is one of the highest crash sites in the municipality.

Ed George, a Langley resident representing the B.C. Wildlife Federation, noted the development’s plan to restore wildlife areas.

“If we don’t screw it up we don’t need to restore it,” he commented.

Referring to air, water, shelter and food as basic necessities for survival, farmer Brian Anderson spoke of the threat to farmland.

“If we continue (to develop it) we will erode it away. Where will your next meal come from?”

Addressing council, he said: “Did you guys eat today? Do you want to eat tomorrow?”

He said that both proposals raise serious concerns about flooding, and urged council to allow nothing until a “stringent and rigorous analysis” on the impact on farming is done.

Representing the Fort Langley Farm Preservation Group, Anderson noted that the development fails to mention the net benefit to agriculture.

“This is spot zoning that will clearly reduce agricultural viability,” Michael O’Brien said, adding that he has heard nothing about a plan to mitigate runoff from increased flooding.

And runoff has increased, said O’Brien, adding that low areas on his farm have increased over the years to the point where it’s possible to drive a tractor there only one or two weeks in the summer.

Frank Cox of Fort Langley urged council to reconsider the proposal.

“What we are looking at is a very small tip of the iceberg,” he  said. “I think we are looking at a very small part of what is to come.”

Rhys Griffiths of the Langley Field Naturalists and the Salmon River Enhancement Society said that both organizations foresee damage to fish and wildlife as the “inevitable result” of the proposed developments, particularly the Wall proposal.

Mayor Jack Froese and Councillors Bob Long, Charlie Fox and Grant Ward opposed adjourning the Jan. 16 meeting to Monday night. The adjournment had been proposed by Councillor Kim Richter on the premise that the snow might have prevented speakers from coming to council.

The hearing now over, council will consider third reading at its Feb. 13 meeting. Normally third reading would be considered at the next regular council meeting, but council agreed to delay it another week so that Richter could attend FCM business out of town on  Feb. 6.


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