‘Where will the children go?’

Routley residents demand the school they believe they were promised

Not one of the 26 people who spoke at a public hearing on Monday supported a proposal for townhouses where they expected a school would be built. 

And while the lengthy public hearing grew testy when two speakers disregarded Mayor Rick Green’s pleas to respect hearing protocol by limiting their lengthy submissions, it was immigrants new to Langley who brought a touch of poignancy to the hearing. 

Struggling with their new language, they nevertheless succeeded in making it abundantly clear that they want a school, not 103 townhouses, on a vacant parcel at 198 Street and 70 Avenue.

That is the property which Focus Architecture, on behalf of the Bains group, has applied to rezone to allow the construction of 103 townhouses. 

The 5.6 acre parcel at 19865 70 Ave. is currently zoned suburban residential. The rezoning application is in tandem with the rezoning of a 8.19 acre site, owned by the Township, for a future neighbourhood park.

The Routley Neighbourhood Plan allows a density of 30 units per hectare (12 per acre), giving the Bains group the potential to build 166 units. But no concession could convince the 26 speakers at Monday’s four-hour public hearing that the development is good for their neighbourhood.

The residents want the school that they were led to believe would be built on the land.

Teresa Blades, the first speaker, asked the question upon which others would build theirs: “If the development is built, where will the children go?”

She said that a development of 103 townhouses will generate a significant number of school children.

Pete Pretorius called the change from school to townhouses a radical one, telling council that without a school “you are cutting the heart out of the body.”

“You have a choice,” he told council. 

“Put the school back.”

His father, Peter, said that Langley School District figures projecting the number of Kindergarten to Grade 7 students in Routley are flawed, a fact he established when he went door-to-door in his neighbourhood.

Residents “are very upset. They feel disillusioned . . . and some of them are going to leave the area.”

Raj Gupta asked council that if a neighbourhood plan can be so easily changed, would council act the same with their election promises.

Reena Terry charged that if the proposal is approved, it will violate the Routley NP which states that school properties must be secured before development can proceed. 

Addressing council in his broken English, Jim Wan Kim said, “We don’t want this land swap. Please consider this issue and please show the example to our kids that this is a democratic country.” 

Manuella Coumbias said that the homes on 70 Avenue belong to “an amazing group of people” who feel betrayed by the removal of the school from the plans.

“They (the Langley board of education) don’t care . . . so we are looking to you to help us,” she said.

Trevor Bourne raised the issue of safety for drivers and pedestrians. He and Robert Glover both said that they will move their families if a school is not built on the land.

Joyce Zhou said that she called the Township’s engineering department about the status of the land before she moved into Routley four years ago.

“They were very clear that it was going to be a park and school,” she said, adding “we had high expectations but now are very disappointed.”

Dale Kooyman opposes the development, but was the only resident to suggest options should the application proceed. Kooyman suggested that the townhouse density be decreased, and that the parking arrangement in the subdivision be improved.

He said that there should be a completion date for the Routley Neighbourhood Plan and public consultation on its progress.

 Council will consider third reading of the rezoning bylaw at its July 11 meeting.