Editorial — Willoughby residents make passionate pleas

The pleas of Willoughby residents about a high-density development at 68 Avenue and 200 Street are just as passionate as they were two years ago. At that time, Langley Township council turned down Forewest Construction’s proposal for 607 apartment units in eight separate buildings.

The company went back to the drawing board, and has come up with a proposal that is not quite as dense. It now proposes to build 475 apartments, 26 townhouses, four duplex units and two single-family homes.

It seems surprising that there is little difference between the two proposals. While Langley Township  wants higher densities along the 200 Street corridor, which is a worthy objective, this proposal is radically different from the neighbourhood the property abuts. In the area east of 200 Street between 68 and 72 Avenues, there are single-family homes and several townhouse developments, but no high-density developments.

It seems odd that the proposal this time around didn’t have the higher density units along 200 Street, with a much larger transition zone of single-family homes or townhouses between the apartments and the existing neighbourhood. While this would have drastically reduced the overall density, it would have fit in much better with the existing neighbourhood. It would also have the advantage of putting less pressure on the already overcrowded schools in Willoughby.

The dialogue between residents and the developer have been strained ever since the last proposal was rejected. While an advisory committee was set up, it appears from remarks at Mondays public hearing that it rarely met and had little input.

Residents say notices of a public meeting were not delivered to their homes, and they also say those who did go to the meeting found the doors closed 45 to 60 minutes before it was supposed to end.

While these are not major problems, they are indicative of the wide gulf between residents and the developer. If this project is to go ahead in some form, the developer needs to be more willing to genuinely discuss residents’ concerns, and do what is possible to address them.

Langley Township council members need to think carefully about how they will vote on third reading of this rezoning bylaw. Concerns raised by residents need to be considered.

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