Opinion

Change is coming to Brookswood and Fernridge

Last week,  many residents of Brookswood and Fernridge took part in an open house on the Griffith Neighbourhood Plan, which will guide development of an area south of 36 Avenue, on both sides of 200 Street, to about 28 Avenue. The plan area goes west to the Surrey boundary, and east as far as 206 Street.

Many residents stated that they do not want to see the area developed to high densities, citing the examples of Willoughby and East Clayton in Surrey as models not to follow.

While the plan has not been finalized, the ideas shown to residents illustrated higher densities than some expected. The Township’s website states that the population of the area covered by the Griffith plan would rise from the current 1,000 to 14,000 in a 30-year period.

While concerns raised by residents are genuine and need to be listened to, it is important to point out that land development patterns are inevitably shaped by the marketplace. The planning process is important, but plans are often revised (sometimes radically) because of  economics.  The most important factor is the ultimate final price of the housing units being offered.

Willoughby was initially planned as a community which would primarily be composed on single-family homes. The earliest developments, south of 72 Avenue and in the Yorkson area, were single-family homes. But something happened — the price of real estate climbed drastically. The homes built in those areas are simply unaffordable for first-time buyers.

So densities were increased. Provincial changes also had an impact — the building code was changed to allow wood construction of apartments up to six stories. Most of the new development in Willoughby is now multi-family.

This of course changes the population density and increases the demand for services. In one area east of 208 Street along 80 Avenue, the Township has built a four-lane road and prohibited residents from parking along it, despite the lack of traffic. There is not enough parking in their neighbourhoods.

Lack of parking has been a major concern in East Clayton as well, with many homes having both secondary suites and carriage houses. There are often three families in homes on very small lots. A lack of transit means each home has four to six cars.

Brookswood and Fernridge have some unique aspects that should be preserved. These include magnificent coniferous trees and a preponderance of mobile home parks, which are an important housing option for seniors on fixed incomes.

One aspect of the Griffith plan is quite unusual. A private corporation, Griffith Neighbourhood Advisory Corporation, with 10 shareholders who own land within the plan area, has contributed $500,000 towards the planning process. While there is nothing wrong with this, it is important that a small number of landowners not be able to override the direction of the plan.

The  final shape of the plan needs to be directed by all the existing landowners, as well as residents of the nearby area, and Township residents as a whole. They all have a stake in the community.

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