UPDATED: Brookswood residents pack public hearing

 

A multi-night public hearing on the future of Brookswood and Fernridge saw hundreds of people temporarily overwhelm Langley Township this week.

A public hearing on the Brookswood/Fernridge Community plan was abruptly ended Monday when hundreds of people tried to pack into Langley Township council chambers.

The meeting resumed Tuesday night at the larger George Preston Recreation Center, but even there it was standing room only, with at least 500 people in attendance, many of them opposed to the long-term redevelopment plans.

The proposed new community plan would increase density in certain areas of the community, and would increase population from the current 13,500 to about 42,000, by Township estimates. While some local residents and landowners are supportive, more than 2,200 people have already signed an online petition at change.org against the plan, and residents have gathered hundreds of signatures door to door as well.

There were an estimated 400 or more people who wanted to attend Monday’s meeting, while the council chambers only has space for about 200.

Even before the meeting started, Mayor Jack Froese recognized that a lot of people wanted to speak.

The public hearing started with an explanation from Township staff about the community plan, which would increase the density of the Brookswood/Fernridge area to about half that of Willoughby.

The highest density would be along 200th Street, commercial core areas at 208th and 40th Avenue, 200th and 40th, and 200th and 24th would be expanded. A new core area would be created at 200th and 32nd Avenue.

The plan shows that an estimated 8,300 residents will live in relatively low-density areas, with about two homes per acre. Another 19,300 residents are expected to live in areas with a density of eight homes per acre. Another 10,900 people will live in multi-family housing with a density of about 45 homes per acre, and 500 people will live in higher density multi-family developments at about 85 units per acre.

Another 2,700 people are expected to live in the mixed use areas around the core in more multi-family housing, and 900 people will live in the mobile home parks that still dot Brookswood.

On the first night of the hearing, just three residents and landowners had a chance to speak before the shouts from the audience and concerns about the fire code led to the meeting’s early ending.

More than 50 people spoke Tuesday, and more were expected to attend a third night of the hearing on Wednesday.

A majority were against the project. 

“We need to respect and protect our Brookswood,” said Rhonda Luding, the first speaker Tuesday night.

Many opponents of the project cited similar concerns. First on the list for many was the character of Brookswood, with its mature trees, relatively low density, quiet side streets and wildlife in ravines and back yards.

“It’s the kind of neighbourhood that most people in the Lower Mainland dream about,” said Jackie Mandzak. She said there won’t be room for any substantial trees on 4,000 square foot lots.

“I’ve learned to love the quiet, rural neighbourhood,” said Sandra Barnett, who moved here from New Westminster in 2007.

“I have real concerns that we will lose all the things that we hold dear,” said Zosia Ettenberg. She also worried that Township council was not listening to residents.

Other concerns focussed on how infrastructure would meet the needs of another fast-growing community in Langley. Many residents compared their situation to Willoughby, which has been booming in terms of population, but which has experienced growing pains including overcrowded schools, road congestion and construction, and a lack of transit and parking.

“With all these people that are planning on moving into the area, what’s that going to do to our hospital?” said Paul Niemi.

“I cannot believe that a plan would come forward on this without addressing 16th Avenue,” said Harold Leyenhorst. Many others worried about increased traffic on 200th Street, 204th, 40th Avenue, and 196th Street.

Those in favour were a mixture of longtime residents and landowners, with some who hope to move to the community.

“My hope is that I will be able to move my family into this neighbourhood with the plan that is here,” said New West resident and Brookswood property owner Kulwant Sahota.

Many focussed on the fact that Brookswood has been designated for future urban growth as far back as the 1970s. Willoughby was picked to be the first area to be actually developed of the two.

“Brookswood was neglected for a long time,” Al Benning said in support of the plan.

The big properties of South Brookswood aren’t affordable for future generations, said Bob Sangha, also speaking in favour.

Some were in favour, but cautious. Jim Hattie had concerns about traffic, ecological issues, and illegal suites, but was generally in favour of the plan. He said council has to be careful not to allow develoeprs to maximize density at every turn.

“I like the plan, if you stick to it, and tweaking it to where people like it,” he said.

A third night of the hearing was scheduled for Wednesday night at the GPCC.

Township council was tentatively scheduled to vote on the third reading of the bylaws for the Community Plan on March 31.

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