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Huntsfield Green residents voice concerns over townhouse proposal

Three years after residents of Huntsfield Green filled Langley City council chambers to voice their displeasure about the construction of a major thoroughfare near their complex along 196 Street, many returned on July 7 to raise concerns about another project during a public hearing into the development of a new townhouse complex.

A proposal to build more than two dozen townhouses directly north of their 23-year-old complex, has some Huntsfield Green owners worried about issues of privacy, security, safety and a potential decline in property values.

The 117-unit Huntsfield Green complex at 19649 53 Ave., is located immediately south of four lots on which a developer proposes to build 28 three-storey townhome units.

The main issue local residents have with the design is that it calls for pedestrian-only access from 55A Avenue on the development's north side, while vehicle traffic would be required to enter the complex from a back lane, which runs along the Huntsfield Green property line.

The lane allowance already exists, but has to date remained an undeveloped strip between the properties.

The design for the new townhouses is very similar to a 33-unit development, called Marquee, which was recently completed on 55A Avenue, immediately east of the proposed new complex. Vehicle entrance to Marquee is through a back lane, which would be pushed through to the west to accommodate the new project.

"As the new, officially designated road, we can now expect considerable use by future residents on a 24-hour basis, as (the lane) is the only entrance,"  Huntsfield Green owner John Fuller told council.

The property grade is another area of concern for residents, said Fuller, who noted that in some places, there is as much as a six-foot drop in elevation between the lane and the Huntsfield Green property.

"We expect a concrete retaining wall will have to be built to support the road," he said.

Residents are also calling for the construction of a three-metre high, solid fence to block the glare of headlights from the lane, reduce noise and to prevent "undesirables" from using the lane as a convenient way to gain access to Huntsfield Green units.

"People will be looking directly over onto the Huntsfield Green property," Fuller said.

"The City should ensure Huntsfield Green residents enjoy adequate security and privacy."

Fuller was one of a handful of area residents who spoke at the July 7 public hearing, though many more filled the gallery.

Cynthia Sharp, who lives on the north side of Huntsfield Green, said the new townhouses will be uncomfortably close to her unit, with just 14 feet separating her home from the property line.

"People pay such a lot of money, then to have someone 14 feet from their living room," she said.

"We're all worried about a drop in the price of our homes."

Sharp said she also fears that the complex could be damaged during construction by the use of heavy equipment so near to her building.

Project proponent Fred Adab of F. Adab Architects, told council steps will be taken during construction to ensure there is no damage to Huntsfield Green.

He added that an engineer had inspected the site and determined that the grade difference is not an issue.

Since the project is still in the design stage, council was told, the lane grade can be lowered to eliminate the difference in elevation, which the Adab said was estimated to be about 18 inches along the span that borders the property.

Wendy Stewart, also a Huntsfield Green resident, asked whether the City planned to send an engineer to inspect the work.

The City's director of engineering, Rick Bomhof, replied that it will.

"Are you ready to put that in writing? When it collapses, you'll take on the cost because these guys (developers) are gone?

"I've seen things happen before. The City walks away and says, 'Not our problem' and leave owners with a crumbling wall."

During the discussion, another issue arose, related to an existing plastic fence built by Huntsfield Green. It was determined that the fence encroaches on the lane, which is City of Langley property.

Noting the fence will have to be moved, Councillor Gayle Martin asked whose responsibility that will be.

Bomhof replied that when a developer comes in, he has to deal with what he has.

"Even though the development encroached on our property," asked Martin.

Bomhof replied that these things are often left the way they are until it becomes an issue.

Now that it is an issue, he said, it is up to the developer to address it.

After a lengthy discussion about the questions raised during the public hearing and information council members would still like to receive, rather than close the public hearing, council opted to adjourn it. This means they may still receive new information before making a decision about whether to give third reading to the rezoning of the property.

"I find it difficult to listen to all these concerns and say, 'That's that. I'm going to make a decision on third reading," said Councillor Dave Hall.

Hall suggested that "with respect to the developer who has invested money and time," the hearing be adjourned until council's next meeting on July 21.

"I wouldn't want to delay it until September — that would be tremendously onerous to the developer," said Hall.

City Council does not meet in August.

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