Controversial Brookswood plan began with landowners

Photos of dilapidated houses and a petition from landowners started the process that led to the contentious Brookswood/Fernridge Official Community Plan.

The kickoff for development plans was the desire of a group of property owners in what is now the Griffith Neighbourhood to get a new neighbourhood plan in place.

In early 2011, a petition and request for a new plan was delivered to the Township, with signed form letters in favour of the project from about 75 per cent of local landowners. Cameron Gair, as head of Solo Project Management, delivered the request.

The letter didn’t ask for any specific changes to the area, noting that it had been 10 years since the residents had asked for a review of the old Brookswood/Fernridge OCP.

“We would respectfully request that the neighbourhood planning process for our area be expedited as soon as possible,” the letter concludes. A total of 120 signatures were included.

However, when that petition arrived in the winter of 2010, the Township was in no position to start working on another major community plan, according to manager of engineering and community development Ramin Seifi.

In 2011, staff reported to council, and said they had concerns with the lack of planning resources, Seifi said. Staff were still working on a number of neighbourhoods in Willoughby, downtown Aldergrove, and the Carvolth region. There were not enough staff members to do all those jobs and work on Brookswood.

A group of 10 landowners then formed the Griffith Neighbourhood Advisory Corporation, which offered to put up $500,000 to fund the hiring of staff to begin the neighbourhood planning process.

In May, staff went to council with a plan to complete the Brookswood/Fernridge plan with this process. It was approved by the previous council under then-mayor Rick Green.

A report created by GNAC, and included in the report to the council, said that the Griffith area was run down. It included photos of three derelict or aging homes that were termed “typical” of the area.

“Dozens of properties in the Griffith Neighbourhood have changed hands over the years, with a majority of the lands now owned by investors and developers,” said the presentation. “Many of these homes are now in serious disrepair and have clearly seen better days.”

The money from the GNAC will be paid back to that group from the Township, over 30 years. It is to be paid back from fees collected from developers following rezonings in the area.

The GNAC received progress updates.

“We also had meetings with them on a regular basis to keep them informed of the progress,” said Seifi.

Township staff said the GNAC did not have influence over how the plan was designed, just on it progressing.

The Griffith area is south of the medium-density portions of Brookswood, defined by 33A Avenue and 36th Avenue to the north, 196th Street to the west, and an eastern boundary that runs up 204th Street before jogging east to include a number of properties on both sides of 205th Street.

The land excludes the houses around Rees Lake south of 32nd, but does include Noel Booth Community Park and the nearby elementary school. A large mobile home park in the 3000 block of 200th Street is part of the plan area.

Griffith is the area where most of the increased density is expected in the current draft of the Brookswood/Fernridge Community Plan.

Maps show that much of the land designated as “Multi-Family 1,” which would include rowhouses, townhouses, and duplexes, would be clustered around 32nd Avenue and 200th Street, with corridors of similar density extending to the west and south. Much of the southern portion of this level of density would be outside of Griffith.

The “Multi-Family 2” proposed, in the form of low-rise condos of four storeys or fewer, would all be around the intersection of 32nd Avenue and 200th Street.

That same intersection is also planned to become a fourth commercial core for Brookswood. Around 265,000 square feet of commercial space could be developed at that corner, according to the plan, covering 34 per cent of a 16-acre area.

The proposed Brookswood/Fernridge OCP proved controversial, with a three-night public hearing held earlier this month. A decision on the plan is expected Monday at the Township council.

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