Phyllis Heppner is one of the members of the Community Planning Team that worked on the new Brookswood-Fernridge community plan. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Brookswood plan back to council

Langley Township debated the latest version of a new community plan.

Whatever is decided about the new Brookswood-Fernridge community plan, it won’t happen overnight, said Phyllis Heppner.

“This is going to take 20, 30 years to play itself out,” she said.

Heppner was a member of the Brookswood-Fernridge Community Planning Team. The team was assembled from local residents, business owners, land owners, and others to help Township staff throughout the community plan update.

A music teacher who has lived in Brookswood since 1992, Heppner said she was initially skeptical.

“I wondered, is this just a political ploy?” she said.

But Heppner said the group and the residents at large were listened to during the process.

In fact, Heppner would have preferred greater density than was in the plan that was presented to Langley Township council Monday night.

“I’m looking forward to growth in Brookswood,” Heppner said. She would like to see more shopping and services close to home, withing walking distance, or at least a shorter drive than Langley City.

Ultimately, the plan as presented tones down the density and population growth seen in the last, highly controversial plan.

Council voted to move to public hearing Monday after 16 months of public consultation.

The new Brookswood-Fernridge community plan includes provisions for five new elementary schools, a new middle school and a new high school, 100 acres of parkland, and 50 kilometres of new trails and greenways.

A new tree protection bylaw is included to replace an interim bylaw.

The new bylaw would allow owners of parcels of land less than two acres in size to cut a maximum of two trees per year; lots larger than two acres could cut up to four trees per year. The new rule would only apply to undeveloped land.

The new plan would increase the population of Brookswood and Fernridge to about 39,000 from it’s current population of about 13,000. The old plan set a target closer to 42,000 residents.

One aspect of the plan is “cluster development” which would allow slightlay higher density if trees and green space on the development site are preserved.

Councillors Kim Richter and Petrina Arnason advocated another round of public input to deal with some public concerns.

“I think there was some confusion at the last open house,” Richter said.

She said some residents didn’t understand that the three options presented weren’t the only choices they could make for elements of the community plan.

She also raised issues around the “cluster development” and said the directives to preserve trees are not clear enough.

Other councillors, including Bob Long, Blair Whitmarsh, and Angie Quaale, were in favour of going to a public hearing to get those concerns out.

Long noted that the council doesn’t have to adopt the new plan immediately after the hearing.

“I think we’ll get all the information we need at the public hearing,” said Coun. David Davis.

One of the contentious issues is the amount of relatively dense development and the size of lots. Most Brookswood lots, dating from development in the 1970s, are about a quarter acre.

“Not everybody can afford a quarter acre,” said Mayor Jack Froese.

He urged council to move forward, pointing out that the plan also includes upgraded protections for streams and the aquifer under Brookswood.

The new plan includes more 7,000 square foot lots, the possibility of 4,000 square foot lots in cluster developments, and some four-storey condos and townhouse developments. A full 91 per cent of land would be designated for single family homes, six per cent for multi-family and mixed use, and three per cent for mobile home parks. Condos and townhouses would not be permitted to rise above four stories, compared to the five and six storey condos that exist in Willoughby.

The majority of council voted in favour of going to a public hearing.

The hearing is expected to take place in two weeks, at the end of June.

The previous OCP was unpopular and was defeated by council in 2014. The planning process began again, with the council vowing to create a new process that put in more public input from the beginning.

The Community Planning Team was a part of that, as were a series of open houses that allowed residents to put Post-It notes on giant maps, write comments, and fill out questionaires.