Community planning starts fresh in Brookswood

 

Brookswood will be getting an all-new Official Community Plan, but it may take a while to get it going.

On March 31, the Langley Township council voted down a proposed Brookswood/Fernridge OCP that had drawn a great deal of criticism from local residents.

While a number of residents and landowners supported the project, more were vehemently opposed to a plan that would have increased the population of the area from about 13,500 now to 42,000 over 30 years.

A solid majority of the council voted against the proposed plan, which had been almost four years in the making.

Now the Township will start from scratch.

Councillor Bob Long put forward a proposal that passed by a 7-2 vote Monday to draft a new OCP.

All the data gathered during the first planning process for the last OCP, along with information from open houses and the three-day public hearing will be included for reference as part of the new update.

Long also specifically called for a look an environmental issues including aquifers, surface water, and trees, and for an evaluation of services such as sewer and stormwater and the use of municipal wells.

He also included in his motion that a timeline for development be based on “future potential market trends” based on existing growth in Willoughby, Walnut Grove, Murrayville, and Aldergrove. Willoughby recenlty hit an estimated population of 25,000 and is still growing fast, while the Township hopes to attract more people to downtown Aldergrove as well.

“We basically go right back to the beginning,” said Coun. Charlie Fox of the new proposal.

Both the speed and the cost of the new OCP are likely to be discussed a great deal over the next year or more.

The last time Brookswood’s OCP was updated was in 1987.

The controversial recent OCP, just defeated, started being planned in 2011, involved public input in 2012 and 2013, and wasn’t brought before council until the last few months.

“In the motion, there is no timeline,” noted Mayor Jack Froese.

There is also no explicit way to pay for the work of planning a new OCP.

“I think the responsible thing to do is to discuss how we’re going to pay for this,” said Coun. Michelle Sparrow.

Mark Bakken, the Township administrator, noted that a request for a new project such as this would normally be put at the bottom of the list of staff priorities unless the council directs otherwise.

He also said that it would likely need money specifically earmarked for it, which won’t likely happen until the 2015 budget is drafted.

There was some debate among the councillors, with Kim Richter suggesting a specific density ceiling be included before discussions get going.

Most councillors were pleased to leave things open-ended.

“I don’t think we can pre-describe anything,” Long said.

Richter noted there wasn’t much of an appetite for change heard from local residents, and suggested the Township needs to finish up Willoughby first.

Based on the need for funding and the length of time it took to draft the last OCP, it could be years before another Brookswood OCP appears in front of the council for a vote.

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