Township of Langley council will consider taking a closer look at development pressures in the rural Salmon River Uplands area, after a motion from Coun. Kim Richter was referred to the Council Priorities Committee (CPC).
At the Feb. 15 afternoon council meeting, Richter presented a motion, inspired by an email from a local resident, asking staff to create a report on the feasibility of making the Salmon River Uplands a mandatory development permit area. Development Permits are limited to consideration of form, character and siting of structures.
This would encompass land over the Hopington aquifer, from roughly 232 Street to 256 Street, and Fraser Highway to 72 Avenue, Richter said.
As new developments are being constructed — such as Hyde Canyon Estates Homes, located on the former Tuscan Farms near 248 Street at 61 Avenue, and Robertson Ranch Estates, located near 248 Street on 44 Avenue — Richter believes the resident’s suggestion is timely.
“I actually think that that’s a very good idea because more and more over the last little while we’ve seen this trend towards strata type development, which means they’re putting in the smaller roads (and) they’re clustering housing,” Richter said.
“People have been accumulating land in the area, and right now our approving officer has a great deal of flexibility in what the approving officer can and cannot do,” said Richter.
“So I think this was a way to make sure that the neighbourhood character is not lost with this push towards stratified, cluster-type development that we’re seeing in the Salmon River Uplands. It’s a very important part of the Township, it’s sitting on top of a very important aquifer in the Township.”
When a property is already zoned, clustering the housing creates pockets of residences but leaves larger tracts as open space. For example, a 10-acre parcel could have 10, 1-acre lots or 10 clustered homes on 2.5 acres with 7.5 acres left as open space, explained Township CAO Mark Bakken.
Other members of council pointed out that turning this into a mandatory development permit area could have unintended consequences.
Residents wanting to simply build a shed or a deck on their property could be negatively impacted.
Mayor Jack Froese likened it to “shoot(ing) a fly with a cannon,” and said he does not support the idea, not even for discussion at CPC.
“I don’t support this at all. I think if we are going to be doing something like this it should be throughout the entire Township of Langley,” Froese said.
“So now we’re putting another impediment on agriculture. So if anyone wants to put up a greenhouse, or barn, or a shed for their livestock, or a place to harvest their production, rather than just going through a building permit and dealing with staff under the building code, we’re putting another impediment on them.”
Richter countered his argument, saying the intent of her motion is “not about garden sheds, this is about densifying an area over an unconfined shallow aquifer that — by the way — feeds the Salmon River, which is our most prestigious and prolific salmon bearing vehicle that we have in the Township.
“So I think there is a need for us to be a little more considerate relative to the natural environment that we are so blessed to have here in Langley … I’m sorry, I think it’s not about garden sheds, Mr. Mayor, I think that’s being flippant about an area that’s important to our Township.”
Coun. Michelle Sparrow said a “more fruitful discussion at CPC would be beneficial,” and asked it be referred to CPC.
The referral passed with Mayor Froese, Coun. Angie Quaale and Coun. Bob Long opposed.