LETTER: We have one chance, let’s get it right

Council can and should learn from past mistakes when planning development of Brookswood/Fernridge.

Dear Editor,

Township council, at their Nov. 19 meeting, debated Councillor [Eric] Woodward’s motion to stagger the completion of three neighbourhood plans over the period of 36 months – rather than attempting to complete these concurrently.

Township staff had planned to finish the three neighbourhood plans over the next 12 to 18 months.

The sole intent of Coun. Woodward’s motion was to have the three neighbourhood plans worked on concurrently, but to stagger the public consultation and review of the individual plans by council.

Asked to provide additional information, Township manager of engineering and community development Ramin Seifi noted that a report will soon be brought forward (by December 2018) outlining for council a schedule and terms of public consultation for the neighbourhood plans.

Councilor [Blair] Whitmarsh spoke against the motion, stating that working on all these plans at the same time would ensure good planning so that environmental, engineering and road network issues could be considered at once and save a considerable amount of money.

There is little disagreement on this, however, he failed to mention that a $400,000 contract had already been awarded to Urban Systems for the environmental and engineering services. Coun. Whitmarsh did note that planning schedules and development schedules were entirely different issues.

Councillor [Bob] Long suggested that picking one area over another for development could have an economic impact on land values within the three planning areas and disadvantage those who had already purchased property in the various neighbourhoods.

Coun. Long reminded council that any new development application brought forward had to be considered by council. Fortunately, he did not say, nor is it the case, that any application brought forward must be rubber stamped and approved by council.

Neighborhood plans are substantially different from the broader Official Community Plan. It is at this lower level that the community can voice their opinion on such things as lot setbacks, lot coverage, type of housing that should be included, i.e. cooperative housing and ranchers, bicycle and walking trails, suites, parking, community amenities required as well as parks and playgrounds.

These are the issues that result in building a community rather than a just building housing. This will take time and needs to be undertaken carefully with full input from the community.

Public consultations for the Booth, Rinn, and Fernridge planning areas could result in substantially different outcomes for each area and should not be undertaken concurrently.

Applying a cookie cutter approach to public consultation will not satisfy residents that their voices are being heard.

After the public consultation is finished and each draft neighbourhood plan is prepared, the draft plan, unlike what transpired with the OCP, should be presented at a final public community meeting and along with any comments received forwarded to council for review, debate and decision.

The issue of development phasing is also important.

We would urge council to develop each neighbourhood to substantial completion before opening a second or third area for development.

Much of the complaint with what has transpired in North Langley is related to half-finished infrastructure, overcrowding of schools, too many suites, lack of parking and lack of any shared public vision of what the neighbourhoods should both look like and be like once completed.

Perhaps we should learn from previous ongoing problems regarding infrastructure.

Perhaps it is time to implement a new or different model for infrastructure development.

If we keep using the past strategies we will only get the same results. Is the township staff, mayor and councillors willing to look at alternative measures or will Brookswood/Fernridge be treated with the status quo?

We should take our time and plan properly, not allowing the schedule to be determined by developers and land speculators.

We are building these neighbourhoods for present and future residents. Let’s get it right.

Bob Langston, Brookswood Fernridge Community Association

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