An overflow crowd showed up at Township council for the Monday night public hearing on two residential projects in the Brookswood-Fernridge area of Langley. Opponents said no development should be allowed to proceed until a new Official Community Plan is completed. Supporters said the projects should be considered on their merits and allowed to proceed.

Debate over proposed developments in Brookswood-Fernridge packs Langley council chamber

Public hearing draws 60 speakers, overflow crowd for three-hour session

A public hearing on two proposed developments in Langley’s Brookswood-Fernridge produced a packed house and an extended debate over the absence of an updated Community Development Plan  that lasted most of the night at Township council Monday.

More than 60 people spoke at the public hearing on the proposals, one for a 10-lot development and one for a 72-lot development, both near 198 Street and 32 Avenue.

Slightly more than half the speakers were against the projects.

The 200-seat gallery in the main council chamber was filled to capacity, and some had to watch the three-hour hearing from an overflow room.

Opponents of the projects said all proposed development in Brookswood-Fernridge should be placed on hold until work on updating the 1987 plan for the area has been completed.

Supporters said the projects should be considered on their merits and approved.

The public hearing came after about 100 people took part in a weekend rally against further development in Brookswood-Fernridge at Noel Booth Park on 36 Avenue and 202 Street.

Michelle Connerty, one of the organizers of the rally, told the public hearing that she was “disappointed” council was considering the projects.

“I beg you, as a council, to stop approving and reconsider any development in the area until we have an updated OCP,” Connerty said.

“We need a plan.

“We deserve a plan.”

Speaking in support of the projects, Kulwant Sahota said it will not be possible to produce a community plan that can satisfy all the critics.

“There’s a group of people here who will never support development,” Sahota said.

Speaking against the projects, Sigrid Singleton said it would be “unconscionable” to design new neighbourhoods using the 1987 plan.

Supporter Patrick Kerr said while the existing community plan may be nearly 30 years old, the municipal bylaws that govern development standards have been modernized, meaning the significant difference is the lower allowed housing density under the old plan.

“So what you have (in these development designs) is a large lot with all the modern standards,” Kerr said.

While a majority of council has taken the position that the Township is legally obliged to consider development proposals under the 1987 plan, several critics suggested there was no corresponding obligation to approve them.

“Dig deep and do the right thing,” Colleen Brayfeild said.

The Township is currently in the process of trying to update the planning guidelines for Brookswood-Fernridge after the failure of a proposed revision in 2014 that would have allowed smaller lots and denser housing developments but generated considerable controversy and ended with the plan being defeated by council.

The work on the new and updated community plan is expected to take between 12 to 18 months at a cost of $150,000.

Before the public hearings got underway, Coun. Charlie Fox served notice that he will be asking council to cancel the work on the new community plan because he doubts any update of the Brookswood/Fernridge plan would get approved.

“Proceeding with a plan update without a healthy consensus of council and the community is not an appropriate use of funds,” Fox said, “particularly as some citizens have questioned the selection of the individuals on the Brookswood Community Planning Team and alleged that the procedure is corrupt and asked that the planning process be terminated.”

The Fox motion is scheduled to come back to the next meeting of council on July 25 for a vote.

The same meeting is expected to vote on the two development projects.

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