By Frank Bucholtz/Aldergrove Star
The new Langley Township council will make the decision on what direction to go on the Aldergrove Gateway project.
A report outlining the findings from recent public consultations on the property – known as Gateway Plaza, at 27030 Fraser Hwy., adjacent to the Aldergrove Credit Union Community Centre – was received at the final summer council meeting on Monday afternoon. It prompted plenty of discussion by council members.
The property is a mostly-vacant strip mall, now owned by the Township, with Kentucky Fried Chicken still operating. KFC has a lease that expires in 2025.
The consultation took a variety of forms, and was undertaken by Modus Planning, Design and Engagement. Responses as to what the project should include were varied, but the top three choices for members of the public who took part were restaurants and retail; transportation and parking; and recreation.
An online and paper survey was the major source of most comments, with 346 respondents. This survey took place from May 9 to June 1.
There were also a series of meetings with community representatives. Of these, the two best-attended were a series of workshops with students from Aldergrove Community Secondary and Betty Gilbert Middle Schools. In total, 128 students took part.
There were also consultations with seniors, the recreation, culture and parks advisory committee, and staff from ACUCC. An ideas jam session and open house were also held.
“Respondents expressed a desire for a public space that offers all members of the community the opportunity to meet, socialize, develop bonds of friendship, and strengthen community character. As an overall summary, the key themes that developed through the public engagement process reflect Aldergrove as a proud community that is looking to enhance and diversify its retail and restaurant opportunities and ensure adequate attention to parking, transportation, and recreational facilities,” Niall McGarvey, assistant manager of parks design and development for the Township’s engineering department, said in the report to council.
Council had earlier discussed making the property a public open space as an entrance to the Aldergrove core area.
A federal grant of up to $750,000 was available for such a purpose, but council decided not to pursue that option. Instead, in January council directed staff to remove vacant buildings and turn the area into a gravelled parking area for the present, and engage with the public on future use of the property.
In discussing the report at council, it was decided to split the vote into two parts. One, to receive the report on public engagements, was approved unanimously. The other part of the motion, to turn the matter of how to proceed next over to the incoming council, prompted a number of comments.
Coun. Bob Long, who has been a champion for Aldergrove in his 23 years on council, expressed disappointment that council had not agreed to the federal funding. He noted that it has now spent another $50,000 on the engagement process.
“We are now back to square one,” he said. “I support the report, but (the report’s recommendation) to spend another $75,000 on planning – I’m not sure. It should maybe be left to the next council.”
Coun. Eric Woodward said he agreed with the council decision to decline the federal funds and “I look forward to defending it over the next few months.”
Coun. Steve Ferguson said the public engagement process brought out many good ideas from those who took part, and “this is an opportunity to build something positive for Aldergrove.”
Coun. Petrina Arnason said a library was originally intended for ACUCC, but was not included in the project because of a lack of space. She would like to see that included in the Gateway project.
Coun. Blair Whitmarsh said he supported leaving the decision about the next step to the new council, and expressed hope that some Gateway funding will be included in the 2023 budget.
Administrator Mark Bakken told council that the next step will be to unify and cost the ideas presented during the consultation process.
The motion to refer the next steps to the new council passed, with Coun. Kim Richter and Mayor Jack Froese opposed. Froese, who is not seeking re-election, said “I wanted to see it advance in my term.”
He added he is looking forward to the project including “a park bench I can sit on with my retired buddies.”
In response to a question, Bakken said the vacant buildings on the site should be demolished before the end of the year.
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