Contentious land sale to fund Aldergrove school purchase
The corner of 252 Street and 84 Avenue holds one of Glen Valley's best kept secrets — a pristine forest of large, 80 to 100-year-old conifer trees that some locals compare to old-growth regions in Stanley Park and Vancouver Island's Cathedral Grove.
But residents fear that this gem may soon be gone.
The Township, which acquired the land in the 1930s, is now selling the 21-acre parcel — comprised of one five-acre and two eight-acre Agriculture Land Reserve plots — in order to raise funds to purchase the empty Aldergrove Elementary School building on Fraser Highway. The school will be turned into a recreation centre for the community.
While the Glen Valley residents say they have no intention of halting the purchase of the school and, in fact, support the proposal, they believe the money for the Aldergrove Elementary site should come from somewhere else.
"This is about preserving (the forest) for all present and future residents of all areas of Langley, a site that cannot be relocated or purchased elsewhere at any price in the future," Glen Valley resident Stuart Bucholtz told council on Monday evening.
"This treasure belongs to all the people of all of Langley and we respectfully seek a stay of execution of this rare forest," he said.
The decision to sell the land was made at an in-camera council meeting in September, 2011. Since then, a new mayor and three new councillors have been elected.
The parcels at 252 Street and 84 Avenue are three of eight pieces of land being sold to help pay for the Aldergrove site. The others are five-acre lots located outside the ALR at 257A Street and 84 Avenue. If all eight parcels are sold at their appraised values, they will generate more money than is needed to purchase Aldergrove Elementary School, Mayor Jack Froese told Black Press.
No "for sale" signs have been installed at the any of the properties. Instead they were put up for sale on the BC Bid website in May, and the bids will be closed this Friday (June 29) at 2 p.m.
However, this does not mean that the properties will necessarily be sold on June 29, Froese said.
"The process is not over just because the bidding closes; we still have to review it. There are several pieces of land for sale and council may decided to sell all of them, or part of them, or none of them," Froese said.
"We are looking for ways to fund an Aldergrove community centre. It's a priority this council has taken on. We look at everything, but we have to look at what is good for the Township."
At the end of his presentation Bucholtz handed council a petition bearing the names of 225 area residents who are opposed to the land sale, which were collected less than a week before the council meeting. Bucholtz did not become aware of the sale until a week ago, and says that most of the petitioners were not aware, either.
They suggest that Township sell a different piece of land to raise the money for the Aldergrove building.
"People go to Vancouver Island and beyond to walk amongst intact forest. This site is within 20 minutes of anywhere in Langley," Bucholtz's son, Solon, read from a statement to council.
"This site should be the jewel in the crown of a trail network, not a parking lot trailhead to narrow walkways between private properties. This is a regional destination treasure of a park site.
"Surely the approximate $2 million that may be realized from the sale of this site is a relatively small amount in the big picture and can be generated elsewhere. Possibly other Township lands that have no natural forest and are no longer used by the Township could be considered, or other funding methods," he said.
-By MIRANDA GATHERCOLE, Black Press