Residents packed George Preston Recreation Centre Tuesday, Sept. 12 to speak for the third time on a planned Brookswood OCP. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Residents vent over drawn-out Brookswood OCP hearings

A final decision may be handed down next month.

Frustration was the dominant theme at Tuesday night’s public hearing on the Brookswood official community plan.

The third public hearing on a version of the plan since 2014 drew an overflow crowd of hundreds to the George Preston Recreation Centre.

The main concern was still the character of Brookswood and Fernridge. Residents are largely worried about density, preservation of trees, and the impact on roads, parking, and schools.

Many questioned not only aspects of the plan, but why the process had taken so long.

Duncan Morrison mentioned the lengthy process of amendments that led to the most recent 5-4 defeat of the plan in June.

“Some voted against it because it had too many amendments, others voted against it because the amendments didn’t go far enough,” Morrison said.

“The frustration has been for many people, ‘Do something!’” said Harb Gill, who has investment properties in the area.

“Who votes in favour of amendments, and then votes to defeat it?” said Peter Minton, who supports the new 2017 OCP.

“I don’t know if this is the last public hearing, or if there are going to be more public hearings after that,” said Nirmal Sivia, who was in favour of keeping the area rural.

Others said the long delays have damaged Fernridge, the southern part of Brookswood.

Sally Reese said that many lots have been sold to absentee landlords who were waiting for a new OCP to develop. The houses are now rented, in some cases to addicts. Others are vacant but host squatters.

“The sense of community is diminished greatly,” Reese said.

“Development is moving in whether we like it or not,” said Debbie Rhodenizer.

Hanging over the hearing was the 1987 OCP, the last update to Brookswood’s community plan.

A number of people suggested they would rather see that plan – which allows for most of the area to be developed with 7,000 square foot lots, plus some small town centres – than the new one.

Although landowners who hoped to develop once pushed hard for an updated plan, now several landowners said they’d rather stick to the old plan. The new plan would require they wait until neighbourhood plans are approved for each area of Fernridge.

Along with a host of amendments, the 2017 OCP reduces density somewhat compared with the controversial 2014 plan.

The old plan contemplates about 85 per cent single family housing, versus 70 per cent in the new plan, and would boost the population of Brookswood-Fernridge to 39,000 from 42,000 under the previous version of the plan. It would allow small areas of “cluster development” if builders preserve a portion of their land and leave trees and natural features intact.

It also allows for the construction of some low-rise condos.

Township staff have pushed for a new plan, rather than the 1987 plan, because so many provincial and local regulations have changed in three decades that approving developments under the existing rules has become onerous for staff and developers alike.

After the failure of the 2014 plan, however, many landowners simply decided to start developing 7,000 square foot lots. A number have already been proposed and approved over the last year.

Over the early summer, council held a public hearing on the OCP, made a large number of amendments, and then defeated it 5-4. Mayor Jack Froese called it back for reconsideration, and council voted to have another public hearing on the plan, now including the amendments.

Township council will debate and vote on the latest version of the new OCP at a future council meeting, likely in October.