Brookswood public hearing goes a third night

The review of a proposed plan that would increase housing density in the Brookswood/Fernridge area ran three nights after Township council chambers were overwhelmed by a bigger-than-expected turnout on the first night.

Less than an hour after it began, the Monday hearing was adjourned and moved to the George Preston arena, after nearly 400 people tried to squeeze into a council audience space designed for half that number.

It was standing room only, with many in the foyer outside the chambers unable to hear the proceedings because a video and audio feed wasn't working properly.

Their frustration was evident, with several complaining they couldn't hear the speakers.

Mayor Jack Froese announced the decision after taking a brief recess.

"The room is way too full, we're above fire code [safe occupancy limits] and I'm concerned about people's safety," Froese said.

The truncated hearing did hear from a representative of the company that paid for the overhaul of the community plan that would, if approved, increase housing density in the Brooks/Fernridge area.

Cameron Gair, president of the Griffith Neighborhood Advisory Corporation, said there were 10 shareholders in the business, all of them "long-term" land owners.

Gair defended the proposal to increase density, saying "it [the plan] has less units per acre than Murrayville."

An opponent of the plan who only gave her name as Anna R. for "personal security reasons" said Brookswood residents don't want multi-family dwellings.

"There are plenty of townhouses and row houses to choose from elsewhere," she said.

When the hearing resumed on Tuesday night, Mayor Froese opened by expressing his regret for the sudden shift of venue.

"I really want to apologize for last night," Froese said.

Critics of the plan dominated the second evening, with roughly two opponents for every supporter (Click on above image to play video).

People who opposed the plan said it will mean excessive density and will destroy the character of the semi-rural area.

Various speakers at Brookswood hearing Tuesday night

Supporters said the 1987 plan needs updating and the new proposal will preserve Brookswood's character while opening up the area to less-pricey multi-unit housing.

Many of the speakers against the plan cited the Willoughby area of Langley as an example of excessive housing density.

"If we don't approach Brookswood in a different way, we're going to have another Willoughby," said Bob Langston.

"We don't want Brookswood/Fernridge to become another Willoughby," Kirk Roberts said.

"If we keep going on the way we are now, we're all going to live in matchboxes," said Colleen Vandervegte.

Jackie Mandzak predicted disaster, saying the plan will mean "tall, narrow houses with postage stamp-sized yards."

"Why do we need this density?" asked Jeff Clegg, who predicted the plan would lead to "wholesale clear-cutting."

A number of residents were not happy that the plan has been paid for by property owners.

Erin Pasternak said the owners were out to "fiscally pillage" the area.

"They have very little interest in our community," Pasternak said.

Zosia Ettenberg said she is concerned that council is simply going through the motions and a decision has already been made.

"I am concerned that we are not being listened to," Ettenberg said.

Supporter Brian Canfield said rejecting the plan will not stop density in Brookswood.

"I say now is the time to embrace change," Canfield said.

"It is not the end of the world," said plan supporter James Chen.

Clint Lee at Brookswood hearingClint Lee (pictured) , president of the newly-formed "LIVE Langley" civic group, kept referring to the current council as a "slate" as he demanded they "listen to the vocal majority" and reject the plan.

Gord Van Dokkumburg, president of the Langley Rod and Gun club said the club has no plan to sell its site to developers.

"We do not have an interest in relocating," Van Dokkumburg said, adding  "Our 38 acres of trees and green space are not for sale at any price."

Two representatives of the Shoppers' Drug Mart chain also spoke against the plan, unhappy that it will change the property the company owns at the corner of 34 Avenue and 200 Street from commercial into mixed-used and multi-family-residential zoning.

At Times press time, 61 people had spoken.

About half a dozen more were on the list to speak the morning of the Wednesday night hearing, but that number was expected to rise before the meeting began.

The Brookswood plan will come back to council for debate at the March 31 evening meeting.

Next week, another long hearing is expected, this one on the controversial Coulter Berry building in Fort Langley. It is set to begin on Monday, March 10 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.


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