Council delays on Willoughby housing project

Langley Township council voted to take a second look at a planned development at the base of the Willoughby Slope.

Portrait Homes wants to build a complex with two five-storey buildings containing 120 apartments, almost 5,000 square feet of commercial space and 13,690 square feet of office space. Another 91 townhouse units would back up the slopes from 65th Avenue. The property is a triangular piece of land east of 204th Street across the street from the Township Civic Facility.

At a public hearing last week, the Township heard from a number of local residents who were concerned with the project. Many of the issues raised are heard frequently in Willoughby – there were fears about a lack of parking for new residents, and about more children having to pack into already crowded local schools.

Several neighbours also mentioned there seems to be a rat problem in the neighbourhood, and worried about loss of property values, density, crime, and a lack of park space for residents.

Developers tried to assuage some of those fears, in particular pointing to the fact that they will be putting in more visitor parking than the site requires, including using the commercial parking for visitors in the evenings.

Part of the lack of parks in the area could be solved by the creation of a $175,000 new park on township owned land to the north of 66th Avenue.

The developers will contribute $100,000 of that cost if the project goes ahead.

Township councillors talked of dealing with some of the issues right away, while letting staff take a look at other concerns.

The referal was suggested by Councillor Kim Richter, who said there are a host of issues to look at, from a possible crosswalk to whether there needs to be a survey of the neighbouring homes’ foundations.

She also mentioned looking at rules for when construction is allowed. A seniors home is directly to the west of the site.

Coun. Charlie Fox voted for the referral, but was broadly in favour of the project if some of the issues are dealt with.

“What does the neighbourhood truly want there?” he said. If the mixed development doesn’t go through, the land could be developed for light industrial uses, which he suggested wouldn’t be much fun for the neighbours.

Also in favour of dealing with the rat question and other issues right away was Coun. Bob Long.

“I think the rat situation should be addressed right away,” Long said. “Let’s get the Pied Piper out there and get rid of the rats right away.”

After the referral of the rezoning, the council voted to look at four issues raised immediately, including rats, damage to a nearby skateboard park, and some school-related issues.

The matter won’t come back before the Township council until they resume meeting in September, after the summer break and Labour Day.

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