A massive new development including a movie studio complex in Willoughby should be built with solar panels and other environmental upgrades in mind, Langley Township council decided Monday.
Council is considering rezoning of a 51.3 acre (20.76 hectares) plot of land, which constitutes a significant portion of the entire Williams Neighbourhood Plan area in the northeastern corner of Willoughby.
The land extends from the Trans Canada Highway in the north down to 80th Avenue in the south, and from 216th Street in the east to the 21300 block in the west.
Mitchell Group is asking to rezone the land to the Comprehensive Development zone, which would allow the development of warehouses, offices, and the new Martini Film Studios site.
In 2019, Martini announced plans to add 600,000 square feet of new studio space.
Langley has been one of the top filming locations in B.C. for years.
The council was essentially unanimous in its desire to see a big new complex that will bring jobs, but some members wanted more environmental work done to offset the fact that almost the entire site will be paved over with asphalt and concrete.
“This is actually a very visionary business initiative for our community, this huge campus of film production,” said Councillor Kim Richter.
But she and Councillors Petrina Arnason and Bob Long wanted to ensure the developer does more for the environment.
Richter’s motion added a condition to the rezoning for the site – the building roofs must be made “solar panel ready.”
That doesn’t require solar panels, but it means the roofs have to be able to accept solar panels, including the wiring that would be needed. It’s much cheaper to build that capacity into a structure from the start rather than to retrofit later.
Council approved that amendment.
There was then some discussion of a number of other possible environmental requirements, including asking for more green roofs, better water retention systems, more trees or cash in lieu for tree planting, and electric vehicle charging stations.
Arnason called for discussions on all of those things, but council split, with a majority uncertain about asking for so many potential changes.
“If we put too many restrictions on, they may indeed go somewhere else,” said Coun. Steve Ferguson.
A follow-up motion by Long suggested making mandatory a list of energy-saving options the developer has already said they plan to do, including better insulation and heat capture devices. That motion was approved.
Council will also look at mandating at a certain number of electric vehicle charging stations, but staff was asked to report back on that idea.
The next debate and vote on the project could come as early as next week.
The Township council gave its approval to the Williams Neighbourhood Plan back in 2018, but this will be the first development to actually break ground, if approved.
North of 80th Avenue, the area will be mostly light industrial, including the proposed film studio, but is also expected to include a new grocery store.
South of 80th, there will be a mixture of townhouses and single family housing.
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