Letter: Better to use ‘tweaked’ 1987 OCP, says Fernridge resident

Editor: Since the public hearing on June 27, I have been overwhelmed with thoughts and questions about the proposed Brookswood-Fernridge OCP.

First, I think it was a mistake to revisit bylaw 5300 when it failed to pass. The mayor prefaced the vote by saying that it would be binding, but when he (apparently) didn’t like the outcome, he changed his mind and called for reconsideration.

The Special Meeting of Township Council held on July 17 resulted in a second public hearing to be held on Sept. 12, “to give residents and stakeholders an opportunity to voice their thoughts, concerns, and support for the amended Community Plan.”

I sincerely hope that council would not only hear, but will also act upon, community input prior to and at this public hearing.

Despite the enthusiastic affirmations of the mayor and some council members that the community has expressed its views and that they have listened, I don’t see those views reflected in the 2017 OCP. Results from the public engagement process indicate that residents wanted, among other things, low-density development, preservation of the natural environment, protection of mature conifers and retention of the rural character of their community.

Despite having studied the OCP in depth, and asking questions of the planning team, I have received no assurance that the plan is much more than a collection of nice words and pictures. The proposed development is extremely dense, and nowhere do I find any concrete assurance that the environment, the mature trees and the character will be preserved.

Any specific questions I asked of the planners were answered by “that will happen at the neighbourhood planning stage.” By that time, irreversible damage will likely have been done and there are few regulations to ensure that neighbourhood plans will be implemented according to the stated guidelines and suggestions.

Coun. Richter asked the mayor, at one meeting, why could we not use the 1987 plan and tweak it a bit. To which the mayor replied, (paraphrased) “That’s exactly what we’ve done.”

I do not agree. The 2017 plan bears little resemblance to its predecessor, which was clearly defined, showing the location of schools, parks and conservation areas. There were no row houses right along the environmentally sensitive Little Campbell River north of 24 Avenue and west of 200 Street; municipal land in the quadrant bounded by 200 Street, 196 Street, 28 Avenue and 24 Avenue was designated as park and school, not single family.

The 1987 plan was out of date, but surely it could have been brought up to current standards with less cost and difficulty than the rounds of public meetings leading up to the 2017 plan, the proposed implementation of which is nebulous and unregulated at the neighbourhood planning stage.

I think that the developed area of Brookswood should have been included in the plan. It doesn’t make sense to me that those who chose to buy in the undeveloped area, many of whom did so because they wanted larger properties and a quieter environment, should be inflicted with the highest densification. Conversely, some residents of the developed area would like the opportunity to subdivide for financial or other reasons. It seems logical to me that the highest densification be at the existing centre of Brookswood, and that it becomes progressively less dense in the undeveloped area and towards the ALR.

I have just learned that Township of Langley property at 205 Street and 33 Avenue is now a proposed development site for single family homes. The same fate awaits the Township property mentioned earlier, which was – in the 1987 OCP – designated as park and a school. If mayor and council are proposing to rezone private land for high densification, they could at least preserve these public lands for conservation.

And regarding the TOL property north of 24 Avenue, between 200 Street and 196 Street, strange things are going on in there. I live just south of it, and can hear heavy equipment going all day, and there is a constant stream of trucks and machinery coming and going through the current entrance through the new, high chain-link fence that now surrounds the property.

A friend of mine used to walk her dog through there to watch the beaver and birds in the marsh, and recently was stopped by police when she tried to enter. This land is our land, not the mayor’s or the council’s land; we have a right to know what is planned, and to be consulted before implementation.

With the exception of three councillors who seem genuinely concerned about preserving the qualities of our beautiful Brookswood-Fernridge, and who to listen to and care about the interests of the residents, I do not trust Township council to carry out their mandate, which is to represent their constituents. I can only guess at their motives, but I don’t believe they are in the best interest of the community.

The amendments to the 2017 OCP are merely cosmetic, and do not address the concerns of residents. I believe that this plan should be discarded, and a new one created, one that will actually address the preferences of residents for preservation in every way of the present character of Brookswood-Fernridge.

A letter to the Langley Times, Aug. 1, by Scott Thompson suggests several additional amendments to the 2017 plan. These are: minimum 7,000 square foot lots, a clearly stated process for phasing, fixed locations of schools and parks, municipal lands used for parks or low-income housing, and Cedar Creek Mobile Home Park designated and permanently protected as MH1.

I agree that these would make the plan considerably more palatable, but would also like to see conservation areas expanded, and a very clear mandate at the OCP stage regarding preservation of trees and their accompanying habitat. Leaving this to the Neighbourhood Planning stage guarantees nothing.

As for the affordability of homes for future generations, a significant factor in the increasing land price is development itself. Without development potential, land prices in our area haven’t increased dramatically. Our three acres in Fernridge is assessed at just over double what we paid for it 16 years ago, about the same current price of an older home in the developed area of Brookswood. We have no wish to sell, but recently have had realtors coming to our door, no doubt dreaming about the somewhere between 30 and 50 odd townhouses they can build in our forest.

Residents should have a right to sell their land for development, but there should be equally weighted consideration for those who wish to live a peaceful natural environment.

Kathy Marsden

Fernridge