The debate over Brookswood/Fernridge development continues, with councillors trying to address concerns.

The debate over Brookswood/Fernridge development continues, with councillors trying to address concerns.

Langley Township councillors address development concerns for Brookswood/Fernridge

Some residents concerned about school and hospital space for new residents

As the Brookswood/Fernridge development debate continues, Township Coun. Charlie Fox says he “went to the source” to find answers on some of the major concerns brought up by residents.

Fox voiced his findings on June 27, as council deliberated third reading of two Brookswood/Fernridge developments. The first, from developer Copper Canyon Holdings, is for 40 homes on 36 Avenue, and the second, from developer Kooner, is for 43 homes on 205 Street. Both passed by a 5-4 vote, with Councillors Kim Richter, Petrina Arnason, Michelle Sparrow and David Davis opposed.

School Capacity

The first issue Fox spoke about was the effect new subdivisions will have on neighbouring schools.

Langley School District numbers indicate there are currently 304 students at Noel Booth Elementary (capacity is 344), 164 students at Glenwood Elementary (capacity is 181) and 969 students at Brookswood Secondary (capacity is 1,175).

From the six development applications submitted to the Township — which will create roughly 241 new homes — the school district estimates there will be 85.5 additional students to Noel Booth, 12.5 students to Glenwood and 52 students to Brookswood (only five of those applications have made this information available to the public at this time).

Those estimates would put Noel Booth over capacity, Glenwood at 97.5 per cent full, and Brookswood at 87 per cent full.

However, Fox said the School Board assured him that overcrowding will not be an issue. He was told by both acting Superintendent Gord Stewart and Secretary-Treasurer David Green, that it will be a minimum of two years before any new students arrive, and more likely four to 10 years before a large number come to these schools. In the meantime, the board  of education is reviewing facilities, and has yet to discuss middle schools for the area.

“The bottom line in the discussion we had, (which) was quite succinctly stated, is the students from these subdivisions will be accommodated in the area schools — that comes directly from the superintendent and the secretary treasurer,” Fox said.

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Read the Brookswood Habitat Status Report here

Hospital Capacity

With respect to concerns about overcrowding at Langley Memorial Hospital, Fox said he was told by hospital executive director Jason Cook that an expansion is planned.

A business case will be completed in the early fall and sent to the Ministry of Health. Right now, they are consulting physicians and nurses and working on the architecture and clinical planning, Fox said.

The plan is to build to a capacity  which will double the size of the emergency room. They are also developing a funding model and are working closely with the Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Fox said in the past two years, the Langley Division of Family Practice has recruited 15 new doctors and seven new nurse practitioners in anticipation of Langley’s growth.

Water Capacity

On issues of water conservation, Fox, who sits on the Metro Vancouver Utilities Committee, said the problem is not supply, but  everyday usage.

“The issue of Metro Vancouver water supply being in a state of crisis is actually not quite true,” he said.

A study found that the average water usage in Metro Vancouver is 455 litres per capita, per day, compared to 340 litres in Seattle.

“We have a problem, we turn the tap on and expect the water to be there and it is,” Fox said.

“The problem isn’t the lack of water, the problem is the conservation of water … We need to get to Seattle’s benchmark, why shouldn’t we be?”

That’s why water restrictions have been extended this year, Fox said. Metro Vancouver wants to show people that they need to be more diligent and start conserving water earlier.

Tree Removal

In addition to the issues Fox addressed, Coun. Kim Richter brought up her own concerns with respect to tree removal.

“I’m just having a lot of difficulty with the logic that we should cut down 351 significant trees and add more people in order to promote water conservation,” she said in response to Fox’s comments on water supply.

“Getting rid of trees does not protect aquifers or promote water conservation. In fact, it damages the environment and there has been nothing done in either the previous one (Copper Canyon application), or this one (Kooner application), to work around those trees — nothing.”

In the five developments for which information is available, a total of 3,804 significant trees have been identified. Of those, only 109 will be retained, the remainder will be removed. There are 1,106 replacement trees to be planted.

An environmental study completed by Langley Environmental Partners Society in 2006 indicates that just 1.8 per cent of the Township contains coniferous forest, and of that, 37.5 per cent of the forest is located in Brookswood/Fernridge.

The report states: “there are numerous environmental concerns in this neighbourhood including: the highly vulnerable Brookswood aquifer, rare coniferous forest, 122 confirmed wildlife species including nine red or blue listed species, and habitat connectivity to adjacent agricultural areas and municipal and regional parks.”

However, according to an arborist who spoke at the public hearing also held on Monday evening, the number of significant trees being removed is deceiving.

The public hearing was for a 30-lot subdivision proposed by Tribune Developments on 32 Avenue between 196 and 197 Streets.

Most of the trees on this property are in poor health and cannot be saved, said Norman Hall of Arbortech Consulting.

“It’s because this site is covered with a forest stand, and there’s forest succession and natural processes going on and the trees that happen to be of significance, in terms of the bylaw, are just very skinny little trees that are really serving no purpose to that forest,” Hall told council.

All of the significant trees were assessed on this property, and 958 of them were deemed unsuitable due to pre-existing defective form, structure, health or species. There are 246 trees in marginal condition and 96 second-growth trees in suitable condition. Thirty of those will be retained and protected.

“Saving some large trees adds complete changes in comparison to what it would be if it was completely cleared, and has a dramatic effect on the aesthetics and function,” Hall said.

“There’s a lot of shade offered by those trees, there’s a lot of physiological and biological benefits that are being offered. So in the end on the tree issue, our site … is saving 30 of the 96 viable trees and that will have a very great impact on the development as it goes forward.”

In addition to the two Brookswood-Fernridge proposals passing third reading, and the public hearing, another proposal for 76 homes on 32 Avenue passed first and second reading. This development, also put forward by Kooner, was defeated at the June 13 meeting because of its inclusion of laneways, but was brought back for reconsideration by Coun. Blair Whitmarsh. The proponent created a new layout that removes the use of laneways and reduces the number of homes to 72,  which council passed in a 5-3 vote.