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More density, smaller lots, better tree protection promised in new Brookswood plans

Three new neighbourhood plans go before the public this month
Brookswood spray park. (Langley Advance Times files)

Three proposed Brookswood neighbourhood plans would bring more density and population, smaller lots, and a new plan for tree protection if they’re approved after public input this spring.

On Monday, May 8, Township council voted in favour of the first readings of neighbourhood plans for the Booth, Fernridge, and Rinn areas, three of the four areas of Brookswood-Fernridge.

The plans have been extensively re-worked over the last few months by Township staff, after the council elected last October asked for a consideration of whether the draft plans would actually see any development.

The concern was that development based on the previous, draft plans would be uneconomical.

“The relatively large minimum lot sizes, inflated land prices, high construction material costs, and high interest rates have resulted in conditions where lower density development is uneconomical,” the report to council about the new plans says. “Smaller minimum lot sizes for single family housing forms would assist in creating more financially viable opportunities.”

The plans contemplate a higher population for the three neighbourhoods once they’ve been fully built out. Rinn, Booth, and Fernridge would have a population of about 63,000 people, compared to 39,000 in previous drafts of the plans.

The new plans preserve the largely single-family home nature of the previous versions, but increase density, including reducing minimum lot sizes in some areas from 10,000 square feet to 5,000, and in another from 7,000 to 4,000. A new category for small-lot row house development has been added.

In addition, heights for townhouses will increase to three to four storeys, for apartments and mixed-use development up to five to six storeys.

The plan still aims at protecting green space and large stands of trees, but the methods of doing that have changed.

The plans call for 610 acres of park and greenspace across the three neighbourhoods, an increase of 137 acres of park space from the previous plan. If approved, it will allow for a 10 acre community park, 63 acres of neighbourhood parks, five acres of urban parks, and 59 acres for a nature park.

More than 230 acres of land is to be protected for aquatic and nature conservation, and there are to be greenways and buffers along the boundaries between Brookswood-Fernridge and Agricultural Land Reserve areas.

As the area grows, there are to be nine new elementary schools, as well as possible upgrades to existing ones, three new middle schools, and a new secondary school.

Core commercial areas have been expanded somewhat as well to serve nearby residents.

There is also a plan to build out key arterial roads faster – including by prioritizing developments that face arterial roads, and with a fund drawn from developer fees called the Brookswood-Fernridge Arterial Road Completion Amenity Policy (B-FARCAP).

In addition, the Township is hoping to phase in development roughly from north to south, according to senior planner Russell Nelson.

Usually, plans such as these see council consider two readings of the bylaws, then go straight to a public hearing.

This time, they only approved the first reading of the bylaws. A public info session on the new plans is set for Thursday, May 25 at Brookswood Baptist Church, followed by a Monday, May 29 public hearing.

Councillors had a number of questions about the new plans, and many of them said they were interested to see what the public says.

Mayor Eric Woodward noted the differences between the old and new plans.

“This draft increased densities,” Woodward said.

But with that, he said, comes neighbourhoods that are still largely single family, but increased tree preservation, plans to address road and school infrastructure, and public safety.

It is “not a version of Willoughby 2.0,” Woodward said, which was a longtime concern of Brookswood residents.

One option council discussed in passing was slowing down the process by phasing in the three neighbourhood plans, one after another.

Brookswood’s Official Community Plan and neighbourhood plans have been politically fraught for the Township.

Residents have been divided between those who wanted little or no change to their neighbourhood, and were focused on protecting its mature trees, larger lot sizes, and water table, and those who had bought their lots years or decades ago with the intention of selling them for development in the long term.

In the 2010s, the Township went through two OCP planning processes, with the first version of the plan failing and being scrapped.

READ MORE: Brookswood OCP defeated

READ MORE: Brookswood OCP passed

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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