Hundreds of people gathered at the George Preston Recreation Centre Tuesday night to have one last say on the amended 2017 Brookswood-Fernridge Community Plan.
Close to 60 residents voiced their opinions over the three-hour long public hearing, and much like the previous hearing in June, some spoke very much in favour of the 2017 plan, while others spoke passionately against it.
This second public hearing was held to give residents the opportunity to comment on the 15 amendments that were made to the 2017 plan in July.
Those changes were passed by council over two days of debate, and the plan subsequently failed third reading by a 5-4 vote. This prompted Mayor Jack Froese to call a special meeting on July 17, where council decided to send the plan to public hearing one last time.
Members of the Brookswood-Fernridge Community Association have submitted their own amended version of the 2017 plan for council’s consideration. Coun. David Davis made a notice of motion on behalf of the group at council’s Sept. 11 meeting to adopt the association’s amendments as a whole.
“While we definitely support the 2017 OCP (official community plan) in its current state, we also believe it can be improved upon with the amendments being presented before you …” said Don Tocher, on behalf of the association.
“We have spent over six hours in consultation meetings with senior long range planners for clarification of certain sections, policies and subheadings as well as getting their support for the amendments we have presented before you.
“… (The amendments) make some of these sections less ambiguous and therefore gives developers a more clear understanding of what is expected of them. This reduces the potential for debates and struggles staff may have to endure in the OCP development.”
Other residents spoke about the rundown properties and drug-houses that are infiltrating Fernridge, and asked council to make a decision on the community plan quickly.
Sally Rees, a member of the Brookswood-Fernridge community planning team, remembers walking down a dirt road to attend Glenwood Elementary in 1960. She said she wishes the area could remain as the quaint country town she grew up in, but also appreciates “positive changes.”
“What I don’t like is watching the area that I love disintegrate before my eyes,” she said.
“Since 1987 people have been selling their properties to developers. Many of these new owners don’t live here and have little regard for what goes on at these properties.
“The sense of community has diminished greatly. Many people are choosing to move away, and in their place are a number of questionable residents.”
Rees says many houses and barns are becoming derelict as owners wait for development to come. Her neighbour’s house, for example, became a home for squatters who burned furniture inside to keep warm after their heat was shut off.
“This wouldn’t happen in the Fernridge I grew up in …” she said.
“I feel that people are being blinded by the rush of new development in Willoughby, and we are discounting the careful and considerate work that has gone into the current Brookswood-Fernridge plan …
“Thirty years is a long time to wait for a workable plan, we deserve a resolution.”
And yet others are worried that the new plan will take away the neighourhood characteristics that attracted people to live in Brookswood in the first place.
Kathy Marsden believes even with the additional amendments from the Brookswood-Fernridge Community Association, the 2017 plan still gives too much leeway to developers.
“The 2017 OCP is a gift to developers and to those who wish to profit from the sale of their properties,” she said, adding that it hasn’t addressed the wants that other residents have expressed through the public engagement process, such as lower density and better preservation of wildlife.
The 2017 plan is expected to come back to council for a vote in October.