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Most speakers give thumbs up to Brookswood neighbourhood plans

Some residents voiced concerns about parks, density
Jagrup Hothi was one of about three dozen people who spoke to Langley Township council about revised Brookswood neighbourhood plans on Monday, May 29. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

The response was mostly positive to three proposed neighbourhood plans for Brookswood, as residents and landowners had their say at a Langley Township public hearing Monday night.

The hearing, which including comments on a related proposal to develop the Horne Pit site, stretched to over three hours, saw more than three dozen people speak.

The council is considering neighbourhood plans for Booth, Rinn, and Fernridge, three of the four neighbourhood plans for the areas south and east of the existing suburban Brookswood neighbourhoods.

Many of the speakers said they approved of most of the elements in the neighbourhood plans, and just wanted to get them approved.

“Let’s move on, it’s been too long,” said Pal Pattar, who said he approved of the higher density in the plan.

“It’s put together very well, and I’m in full support of it,” said Ishwinder Ghag, who said if the council doesn’t move forward now, the process will drag on for another two to four years.

In stark contrast to previous hearings on Brookswood’s development, many of those speaking said they were in favour of greater housing density.

“We do need high density in that area,” said Jaspinder Sidhu.

Bobby Pawar called it a step in the right direction on affordability.

“Now there are some options,” he said.

The neighbourhood plans have been substantially updated over the last several months at council’s direction, after a consultant’s report found that the previous plans would have been non-economical to develop.

The updated versions feature more density, smaller single-family lots, more multi-family units, and also more park space.

If approved without changes, Rinn, Booth, and Fernridge would have a population of about 63,000 people when development is complete, compared to 39,000 in previous drafts of the plans.

Minimum lot sizes in several areas could be reduced, and heights for townhouses could increase to three to four storeys, for apartments and mixed-use development up to five to six storeys.

The plan also calls for 610 acres of park and greenspace across the three neighbourhoods, an increase of 137 acres from the last version of the plans.

Although most of the speakers were in favour of the plans, several also had concerns about specific elements, including road alignments and what will happen to the owners of properties that include major streams, which have large setbacks that can’t be developed.

Kiran Sandhu, speaking on behalf of a local developer, called for more mixed-use construction in some areas, to serve the new population that will move in.

Some speakers still opposed greater density and wanted the area to keep the old Brookswood character, such as Michelle Connerty.

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

“Can we trust that we’ll be able to balance progress with livability?” she said.

She didn’t want to see lot sizes smaller than 7,000 square feet, except on major roads, and said the Township needs to ensure there are enough hospital beds and schools for the expected population growth.

“The community is missing in this plan,” said Trevor Plater, who worried that future parks were not accounted for yet.

Mayor Eric Woodward said he expected council will want Township staff to look at some aspects of the plans raised by the speakers.

“There was a lot of measured, reasonable very good input that largely asked that council consider projected densities and housing forms within Brookswood/Fernridge’s unique context and an awareness of the ongoing infrastructure and liveability challenges we are addressing in other developing areas,” Woodward told the Advance Times.

The third reading of the bylaw is scheduled for Monday, June 12th. Council may propose amendments or delay the next vote for more information, or approve it.

The history of plans to develop southern Brookswood and Fernridge go back decades, and have been highly contentious in the past.

Issues of density, neighbourhood character, and the protection of trees and groundwater were key sticking points, with many longtime residents upset about changes and worried about their impacts.

In the late 1990s, the council of the day rejected a request from a group of local landowners to begin neighbourhood planning. Instead, for most of the next dozen years, Township development and planning efforts were centered on Willoughby.

After a lengthy process of public consultation, a revamped Official Community Plan for Brookswood was defeated in a seven-to-two vote in 2014.

It would be three years and more lengthy rounds of public hearings and open houses before a new version of the plan returned in 2017, and finally passed after a rocky process.

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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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