Brookswood residents got an eyeful when they arrived at the June 23 open house on the Brookswood-Fernridge community plan update.
At a typical open house in years past, Langley Township would set up a number of easels with boards of information around a room. Staffers would be posted to answer questions. There would be feedback forms to fill out.
At last week’s open house, a massive aerial photograph of Brookswood was laid out on the floor.
The usual easels and posters were joined by a sketch station, with an artist who would draw the type of community development residents wanted to see.
Small stickers and Post-It notes allowed visitors to mark off various options and items they valued, or to comment on the boards and map.
“We couldn’t even see the map anymore at the end of the night,” said Jason Chu, the Township’s head of long range planning.
About 750 people visited the open house, Chu said.
The new tactics for gathering information are part of the new public engagement process created after the failure of the last Brookswood plan.
A common criticism of council during the lengthy public hearings was that council was not listening. It’s a complaint that came up in other areas of the Township as well, from Fort Langley to Willoughby.
This open house followed a series of 32 community dialogue sessions, with 250 people in groups of eight to 10, said Chu.
Future phases will include more open houses and an online survey. Future phases will become more focused on specifics, Chu said.
Chu said that there has never been this much data gathered for a community plan in Langley Township.
Locals wonder what it will mean for Brookswood.
“Right at the moment, everyone is wondering if it will change anything,” said Don Tocher.
Tocher is a member of Leave Brookswood Alone online group and of the Community Planning Team established by the Township for the area.
An opponent of increased density, he was blunt about the 2014 plan that council defeated after a great deal of public opposition.
“It was horrible,” said Tocher.
He said the information from the open houses held before the vote on the 2014 plan didn’t really seem to reach council.
Negative comments didn’t seem to make their way through, Tocher said.
He attended last week’s event and said he has some concerns.
One person was apparently seen moving through the room with an entire pad of Post-It notes, putting them up on many boards.
Tocher worries that anyone doing that could skew the results of an open house.
He also questions what the effect will be of the plan, as there are a number of development projects already in the works.
A number of projects have come forward so far, based on the old 1987 community plan for Brookswood-Fernridge. Developers are asking to create 7,000 square foot lots in south Brookswood.
“It kind of forces the direction of the OCP,” said Tocher.
He feels the main thing that the new open house lacked was more information going outward, to the visitors.
Residents should have been offered choices between options, he said.
“I don’t know what will come of it, to be honest,” he said.
The vast volume of information and opinions, some of them divergent, will have to be worked into a complete plan and approved or denied by Township council in the future.
Mayor Jack Froese said it’s great to see the new process rolled out.
“I believe what’s important, are people are seen, they’re heard, and they’re understood,” he said.
There has to be communication, he said, with taking on great ideas, or if an idea may not work, telling residents why.
Still, he acknowledges that there are conflicting views of the future of Brookswood.
“We know we’re not going to make everybody happy,” Froese said.
The 18-month process is expected to continue to the summer of 2017, when a new plan is expected to go to council for a final vote.