Councillor Petrina Arnason and a Township staffer talked about the map of possible land uses at a March open house. (Langley Advance files)

Top Five of 2017: Brookswood plan delayed, amended, approved

Chaos surrounded the final form of a new OCP for Brookwood-Fernridge.

Brookswood remained a major story again in 2017, as the neighbourhood and council engaged in a lengthy debate over the future of development.

In 2014, Langley Township council scrapped plans for a new Official Community Plan (OCP) for Brookswood-Fernridge. But following that fall’s elections, planning resumed again.

By early 2017, consultations were underway, with three concept plans on display at open houses in March.

After a great many meetings and a year’s worth of input, by June the council was ready to begin voting again. But the path from plan to final vote would be far from smooth.

More than 40 people spoke at a late-June public hearing. The same issues that had scuttled the plan were raised again by residents – concerns about density, community character, loss of trees and environmental damage, and the water table.

Meanwhile proponents of the new plan wanted council to move forward. Some landowners had been waiting to develop for years. Others gave up waiting, and development began creeping south into Fernridge, with large properties being broken up into 7,000 square foot lots under the old, 1987 OCP.

On July 11, the council debated and amended the new Brookswood OCP for hours.

And then defeated the plan, 5-4.

The surprising defeat was based on the fact that some councillors felt the amendments had gone too far.

Mayor Jack Froese invoked a rarely-used mayoral power and called for a reconsideration vote, for July 17.

Yet another public hearing – the third full hearing since 2014 – was scheduled for September, and again drew hundreds to the George Preston Recreation Centre.

Many expressed frustration at the lengthy process as much as at the proposed community plan.

“The frustration has been for many people, ‘Do something!’” said Harb Gill, who has investment properties in the area.

“Who votes in favour of amendments, and then votes to defeat it?” said Peter Minton, who supports the new 2017 OCP.

“I don’t know if this is the last public hearing, or if there are going to be more public hearings after that,” said Nirmal Sivia, who is in favour of keeping the area rural.

On Oct. 23, the council finally passed the third reading of the new plan, with a number of amendments.

Council adjusted minimum lot sizes and capped condo heights at four storeys, and allowed cluster housing in exchange for protecting stands of trees.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

• Four neighbourhood plans for Fernridge will be developed that will add detail to development rules

• A number of housing developments already approved will be built

• OCP opponent Kim Richter has announced she will run for Township mayor in 2018

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