Langley Township agrees to less stringent adherence to universal design

Township council has agreed to a 25 per cent minimum adherence to universal design in the Jericho area.

Two weeks after they listened to delegations speak of the importance of housing that meets the needs of an aging community, Township council agreed to less stringent requirements for the Jericho area of Willoughby.

The modifications pertain to the Jericho sub-neighbourhood where Mitrunen Development had initially proposed a development designed for seniors.

However, Leo Mitrunen found that catering to a 55-plus age group is too restrictive and would hinder the successful development of his 17 acres in the 7700 block of 200 Street.

On Oct. 15, council heard from Joe Zaccaria, vice-chairman of CARP’s South Fraser chapter, who said that access and affordability are crucial to the independence, and physical and financial security of seniors.

He wanted council to ensure that the housing units comply with SaferHome Standards/Universal Design, which requires dwellings to be designed so that they reduce the risk of falls, and support inter-generational living.

These designs include wider hallways and doorways for wheelchairs, and lower light switches.

Councillor Kim Richter wanted 100 per cent of the dwellings in the Jericho sub-neighbourhood to meet SaferHomes/Universal Design standards.

“One hundred per cent is asking a lot of any development,” Councillor Grant Ward commented.

He said that 50 per cent is more realistic.

Ramin Seifi, head of the planning department, cautioned council about being too restrictive.

Noting that the Township currently has its own standard of five and 10 per cent, depending on the type of housing, Seifi noted that the sub-neighbourhood is intended to be for multi-generational occupants.

“So if you make it too much of it geared to seniors it could cause problems,” Seifi said.

“Fifty per cent is a great compromise,” Councillor Michelle Sparrow said.

“It’s a great solution to an issue that the public has spoken on.”

Councillor Charlie Fox suggested a mix of housing that would include all age groups.

Richter supported that concept, if half the housing had the Universal Design standard.

“We know . . .  that the seniors population is not getting smaller. It’s growing, and it’s growing very rapidly,” she said.

Councillor Steve Ferguson suggested another approach: “Let the proponent come up with something that makes sense with staff.”

Mayor Jack Froese agreed, saying that 50 per cent is “too much of a burden on developers.”

As a minimum, 25 per cent “is certainly worthwhile,” Froese said.

There is no burden to developers, Richter replied. “It’s just a big selling feature.”

A vote on requiring 50 per cent of dwellings to be built that meet the standard died in a tie vote.

Council then voted to support a 25 per cent minimum.

“This is a travesty,” said Richter who, with Councillor David Davis, voted against the amount.