Trinity University ALR subdivision passes hurdle

Rookie Township councillors slam erosion of farmland

The farm that David Davis and his family have worked and lived on for more than a century lies only 200 feet or so from the farmland proposed for a 67-home subdivision, which would include an additional 18 coach houses.

“The soil is as good as the soil on my farm,” the Township councillor said, as he argued against a rezoning application filed by Wall Financial.

Davis’ arguments and those of Councillor Michelle Sparrow, who is also new on council, failed to convince the majority of council that 13.5 acres of the Wall property at 22415 – 72 Ave. should remain farmland.

The rezoning bylaw passed third reading in a 6-3 vote on Monday.

“Just because it has a swamp doesn’t make it unfarmable,” Davis said, adding that the Wall application “sets a real precedent for future applications (to subdivide farmland). We don’t want to give the impression that money talks, and we should be careful,”

Residents who oppose the plan applauded when Davis said that there is no net benefit to agriculture, and when he noted that the mandate of the Agricultural Land Commission, which approves the subdivision on agricultural land, is to protect farmland.

With no hills, swamps or creek running through it, the land “is as near as perfect” as agricultural land can be, he said.

“Put the subdivision where subdivision should go,” Davis said.

“This is not the type of growth I would like to see in the area,” Sparrow said, predicting that “we will see more speculators than farmers moving into the district.”

The housing development is crucial to TWU’s goal of establishing a ‘university district.’ The objective of this, according to a Township staff report, “is to promote long term prosperity of the university with diverse uses with strong links between the academic and [to] support uses for the primary benefit of the university.”

However, Sparrow and Davis said they had no clear definition of a university district.

Councillor Kim Richter voted with Sparrow and Davis to oppose the Wall Financial application. “I’ve no idea why this is being piggybacked onto the university district,” she said. “This is strip zoning.”

Mayor Jack Froese called the application “a unique opportunity for the Township.” He added that without an amendment, proposed by Councillor Charlie Fox, that will prevent further subdivision on the balance of the Wall Farm’s 87.5 acres, he would not support the subdivision.

The Township will be given another 52 acres for conservation.

“I would like to see more active farming in the area but that would be up to the owner,” Councillor Steve Ferguson remarked, and Councillor Bob Long commented that positive aspects outnumber the negative ones.

There are two other components that involve Trinity Western University’s expansion plan and they, too, passed the third reading hurdle, with only Davis and Sparrow opposed.

Trinity and the Township have applied for rezoning and an amendment to the Rural Plan for  7645 and 7679 Glover Rd., and 22423 Labonte Cres. In these three properties 23.4 acres will be used by Trinity to develop a university district; another 48 acres will remain in the ALR.

The rezoning and amendment will allow Trinity to expand its campus for “learning, recreational, cultural, employment and housing opportunities.”

Housing, a food store and coffee shop geared to the university community, are also planned.

Councillor Bev Dornan called these proposals “a great economic generator for our community,” while Richter called the university district “very forward thinking and progressive for Langley. I think it could leave a very strong legacy for the future.”

Davis said there had been a lot of “fluffy words and good intentions” but still no explanation of what constitutes a university district.

Before the bylaw for Wall Financial comes to council for final reading, several conditions must be met. On Monday, council agreed to add two more: that there be no further subdivision on the remainder of the Wall property (currently an equestrian farm) and that the proponents work with the Township and the Ministry of Highways to improve the junction of Highway 10 and 72 Avenue, and the intersection of 232 Street and 72 Avenue, immediately south of the Highway 1 interchange.