Two public hearings that went late into the night on Monday indicate that Brookswood/Fernridge residents are still divided on issues of development in the area.
The public hearings — which were just two out of five scheduled for that night — were for new residential developments at 20450 36 Ave. and 3492 205 St.
The proposals, submitted by McElhanney Consulting Services on behalf of Copper Canyon Holdings and Nirmal Kooner, would see 83 new homes built on 19 acres of land, with most properties divided into 7,000 square-foot lots.
Nearly 50 presentations were given to members of council, and at least 76 written submissions were received before the public hearing began.
Many of those in support of the applications said that the 7,000 square-foot lots — though smaller than the typical 10,000 square-foot lots seen in the rest of developed Brookswood — are a good size, and will create more affordable housing for young families.
A new development proposal at 3492 205 St. will turn 9.5 acres of rural property into 43 new homes. Photo by Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times.
“Seven-thousand square-feet for this area under the existing 1987 community plan, this is probably as good as it’s going to get in today’s world. Future OCP (official community plan) updates will likely accommodate smaller lots,” said Roland Seguin, who lives in the undeveloped area of Fernridge.
“I also do support this subdivision because I agree that the 7,000 square-foot lot is probably the best we’re going to get,” said Barry McKay, who lives on Sunrise Lake.
“One thing I would like to see that it continue on and it continue south right to 32 Avenue.”
Duncan Morrison, who has lived on 32 Avenue for 39 years, said he is “very much in favour” of development.
“Residents who strongly objected to the revised community plan in 2014 mostly were saying, ‘We don’t want another Willoughby.’ These plans are certainly not like another Willoughby. But apparently there are still objections,” he said.
“Brookswood used to be totally covered with forest, and all of the people on the quarter-acre lots should stop and think of how many trees had to be cut down to create their quarter-acre lots. And not even to think about how many trees had to be cut down to create the lumber to build their houses.
“I have lots of fir trees on my property. Personally, I really like seeing all the variety of trees and foliage, flowers and things in some of the trees in the new subdivisions, instead of the endless march of fir trees which look like telephone polls and a little bit of foliage right at the very top. That to me isn’t such a pleasant sight as a wide variety of trees.”
Others in favour also pointed to the Cedar Ridge development, built in the early 1990s, which is already divided into 7,000 square-foot lots.
“It is known as one of the most desirable areas of Langley to live,” said Cameron Gair (pictured above), whose company has been working with many Brookswood/Fernridge residents over the last 10 years to move forward with development.
“Unfortunately, phases two through 13 of the 1987 community plan have sat dormant for decades as a result of lack of services.
“The applications that are in front of you tonight are the logical extensions of Cedar Crest (Ridge), contain similar sized lots, have the same density, and the density itself is slightly more than four units per acre.
“These applications that you see here tonight seem to replicate that form, that character, the housing styles that exist in phase one. These applications have been … called spot zoning. They are anything but.”
Those who are against the two proposals brought up concerns of increased traffic and parking, loss of significant trees, impact to the aquifer and potential overcrowding of nearby schools and Langley Memorial Hospital.
Laura Warren, who has lived in Brookswood her entire life and has children at Noel Booth Elementary, says the school district’s estimates for 41 new students for Noel Booth is very low.
Even that number will increase their student population by 14 per cent, and she fears they will have to axe their before- and after-school care programs, dedicated music classroom and dedicated math classroom to accommodate the increase in students.
“I feel that we need to be patient and take the time to ensure that the proper instruction is in place, and allow the undeveloped Brookswood to be developed properly,” she said.
“It’s truly a diamond in the rough … I just want to allow the next generation to grow in a beautiful Brookswood/Fernridge.”
For Martin Allen, a Brookswood resident for over 40 years, a loss of significant trees is his biggest concern.
“What we need to do, before we go haphazardly destroying and demolishing the nature that is before us, is to have an overall plan,” he said.
“We can’t go haphazardly doing one section here, and one section there, and then having those be the criteria by which the rest of the whole of Fernridge is going to be developed. So I’m going to ask council to please consider once more before allowing subdivisions like this.”
Elaine Logan (pictured above) said that approving new developments before the minor update to the OCP is complete makes the entire public consultation process meaningless.
“I’m asking you, under what conditions are you approving these? The 1987 plan? Without consultation?
“Because if you are going to approve these now, then the money that you’ve spent on this process, the time and effort that the public is going to put in, and also your community planning team, it’s not worth the paper that is written on, if you’re not going to let the process go through,” she said.
The last speaker, who goes by the name of “Anna R.,” warned council that they should be looking at development on a regional scale, especially regarding water consumption.
“That 1987 plan did not at all account for our current global conditions and our climate conditions. And I think it is very important that we adjust our thinking based on what we have now to work with, as opposed to what there was in 1987,” she said.
“The reality is, nothing has changed since (2014).
“It’s all the same. We don’t have additional hospital capacity, we don’t have additional schools, we do not have additional transportation, and we do not have additional water. So why are we moving forward? We do not have additional information about what the aquifer can sustain … We need to stop. We need to think. Because once these decisions are made, we cannot go back. And our track record here has not been good. It’s a fact — there’s a lot of unhappy people. And we need to change it while we still have the opportunity to do so.”
A new development proposal at 36 Avenue and 205 Street will turn 9.5 acres of mostly treed land into 40 new homes. Photo by Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times.
The proponent argued the developments proposed are in compliance with what is required under the current community plan.
“I’ve heard a few comments earlier this evening regarding putting the cart before the horse. I think how I would characterize this, using the same vernacular, is we already have a horse, the 1987 plan. It may be old, but that’s the horse we’ve got,” said James Pernu of McElhanney Consulting Services.
Pernu also added that 85 per cent of the trees on the Copper Canyon Holdings property are not retainable, regardless of what the land is used for, because of their health or species.
“I think what I want to highlight is actually the fact that a considerable amount of time and effort amongst the consultant team, as well as staff, went into identifying and then protecting the healthy trees on this site.”