The long road to a Brookswood-Fernridge Community plan

Vote of approval unlikely to mean an end to the controversy over construction

After years of drawn-out debate and more than one failed attempt at a new Brookswood/Fernridge Official Community Plan, a majority of Langley Township councillors finally approved an update to the 1987 guidelines for development of the area at their Monday night meeting.

It has been an incredibly drawn-out process, as anyone who attended the many public hearings and protests can attest.

More than once over the years, council had to hold public hearings on the different plans in bigger venues like the 1,400-seat Christian Life Assembly (CLA) and the George Preston recreation centre because there wasn’t enough room in council chambers to accommodate the crowds who turned out for the various sessions on the different proposals.

At one point in 2014, hundreds of Brookswood residents and their supporters turned out in the rain to rally against a proposed overhaul of the Brookswood/Fernridge Official Community Plan, saying it would lead to excessive congestion.

Many among the 250 to 300 demonstrators said they were worried that allowing more density would transform a semi-rural community of large lots and big trees into something like Willoughby, where townhouses and other multi-unit residential projects dominate.

When a version of the plan came before council in April of 2014 at the special CLA meeting, it was defeated, with only Mayor Jack Froese and Councillor Grant Ward supporting it.

That led to another round of hearings and debate that ended with a 5-4 defeat of the revised plan in July of this year.

The mayor called a vote for reconsideration, and the plan was sent to public hearing for a second time on Sept. 12.

This Monday, after more changes were made, the plan passed.

It contains language changes recommended by the Brookswood-Fernridge Community Association to replace many “shoulds” with “shalls,” a significant shift when the language concerns measures aimed at preserving trees and limit congestion.

Whether that tougher-sounding language will be enough to avert the Willoughby-like densification many have expressed concern about remains to be seen, however.

Now, the debate will move from general principles to specifics, from agreeing that development should proceed, governed by certain restrictions, to deciding exactly how those restrictions will be applied on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis.

That will get underway when the neighbourhood planning process for three of the four areas in the just-approved OCP begins next year.

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