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City gets nine high-end homes

When it comes to development in the City of Langley, the vast majority of applications that come in are for multi-family residences — condominiums and townhouses — but on Jan. 24, council issued a development permit for a nine-home “estate” style subdivision across the street from H.D. Stafford Middle School.

The high-end single-family houses will be built on lots of 10,000 square feet or more, arranged in a cul-de-sac formation on the properties at 20436/56/66 Grade Cres.

To add a sense of estate-like prestige, the development will include a keystone retaining wall and terraced plantings at its entrance on Grade Crescent, said developer Patrick Kerr.

The lane and cul-de-sac will have decorative street lighting and all the homes will be built within the guidelines of a controlled scheme to prevent a “hodge-podge” of building styles and colours within the development.

The project was open for public input at the meeting, and three residents took the opportunity to offer their thoughts, most of which centered around the retention or removal of trees and the anticipated increase in traffic in an already-congested area near the middle school.

Elaine Lohner, who lives directly south of the proposed development told council she has no problem with the housing development as it is proposed, but she’d hoped to speak with the developer about removing trees on her property while they were working on the development land.

Her four phone calls went unreturned, she said, and the felling went ahead.

With many of the tall trees to the north now gone, she said, she is left with one large tree standing “like a telephone pole” in her yard, with no protection from strong winds.

“With the wind block gone, I’d hoped to have it taken down,” she said.

Nearly 100 dead or dying trees and those characterized as hazardous or high-risk have been removed or are marked for removal, Norman Hol told council during the presentation by HY Engineering Ltd.

Of the 116 trees on the site, only 31 are in good enough condition to be considered for retention.

And of the 31, 14 stand within the proposed building envelopes and road corridors and will have to be removed, leaving 17 of 116 trees that can be saved if the homes are placed strategically, Hol said.

These are dominant conifers and oak trees, which provide the estate character the developers are seeking to create.

With a number of new trees introduced, including ornamental varieties as well as some larger, long-lived species, there will be 61 trees on nine lots.

“We’ve pretty much saturated the available space.”

With more than half the viable trees spared, Hol called the project, “a success in tree retention.”

Howevever, Councillor Rosemary Wallace expressed disbelief that nearly 100 trees would have to be removed to accommodate a nine-home development.

“It seems like a remarkable number,” said Hol.

A vast number of the existing trees were in poor condition, he said, a fact not helped by human intervention.

Harsh pruning, topping and improper pruning are all culprits in shortening the lives of urban trees, he explained.

Gerald Lencucha, who lives three doors down from the proposed subdivision, advised the developer against planting too many oak trees, citing his own experience with the species.

“They leak sap and get covered in caterpillars. They are the dirtiest tree in the world.”

But for him, the main concern is the 18 vehicles he expects to see added to the neighbourhood with nine new homes.

“Congestion is already an issue,” Lencucha said.

“I don’t want to see the neighbourhood look like north Langley, but progressively, that’s what happening,” he said.

Councillor Dave Hall echoed the residents’ concerns about the volume of traffic on Grade Crescent at the start and end of the school day.

Even now, he said: “It gridlocks for half an hour before and after school.”

Residents of the cul-de-sac may find it frustrating to try to come and go during peak traffic hours, Hall said.

At one point, council had looked into installing a left-turn bay in front of the school, but at a cost of more than $500,000, it wasn’t deemed viable.

Hall suggested it should be up to the school district to alleviate the problem.

“I think it’s the school board’s responsibility to designate a pick up and drop off point that is not to the detriment of the proponent.”

But City engineer Gary Vlieg said it doesn’t appear as though the added vehicles will have much of an impact.

“The volume of traffic during peak hours is anticipated to be limited, and may not coincide with the school’s peak (traffic times)” he said.