Brookswood/Fernridge, one of Langley’s most established communities, has been approved as the next area to urbanize.
The decision to develop and re-develop sections of the neighbourhoods, which lie in southwest Langley, was made by Township council on Monday. It means that staff have the authority to start the process of updating the Brookswood-Fernridge Community Plan and creating a Neighbourhood Plan.
This will require hiring staff and consultants paid for by the developers directly involved.
Councillor Mel Kositsky was not happy.
“This is something I’ve never seen before,” said Kositsky, the longest-serving member of council, who has served uninterrupted since 1993.
“My position is the Township has to be committed to the project and should be hiring its own staff to see the project to conclusion,” he said later.
“We are used to dealing with developers’ consultants and then having our staff review the proposal. Once you get going on this, it must go to complete review of the Brookswood-Fernridge community plan,” he said.
The Township cannot rely on funding from unknown developers, he said.
“There are questions to ask — where is the money coming from and how much? What is the total projected budget and how will it be paid?”
Kositsky said that he expect answers to those questions to be contained in a report to council before any agreement goes ahead.
Despite his misgivings, Kositsky says that the practice is an “unusual but creative” approach that does not require extra budgeting to hire more staff. The planning department already has a full work plan, he said.
The practice in the form suggested for Brookswood/Fernridge is not entirely new, said administrator Mark Bakken. Variations of developer-funded neighbourhood plans have been used for about a decade, and in the case of the Jericho and South East Gordon neighbourhoods of Willoughby, developers have fronted up to 75 per cent of the cost.
Surrey, Bakken noted, has adopted this practice.
“It’s a common tactic in growth communities. But while the developers pay, we control,” Bakken said.
“We are simply trying to increase the cost to developers and reduce it for taxpayers.”
He told council: “This is more significant in that we are taking more from developers than we have in the past.”
The move was wholeheartedly embraced by Councillor Jordan Bateman.
“Every plan gets better and better,” Bateman said, adding that he hopes the neighbourhood plan for Brookswood/Fernridge “captures everything we love about Brookswood . . . let’s work hard to do it right.”
“We need to think the bigger picture at the outset,” Councillor Charlie Fox urged.
He said that there are some elements of the project which go beyond the neighbourhood plan concept, particularly transportation.
He said that “although we are dealing with the plan in isolation we have to make sure we have connectivity.”
Ramin Seifi, head of the planning and development, told council that it will take six months to hire consultants and planning staff, and two years after that to complete the community plan update.