Langley’s largest, newest, and fastest growing neighbourhood has been called “overcrowded,” “out of control,” “cookie cutter development,” “a failed experiment,” and “a ghetto.”
Willoughby, with more than 30,000 residents and more coming every day, comes up frequently at public forums, in letters to the editor, and in discussion at the Langley Township council table. It is raised most frequently by people who don’t live there.
Any debate about the new proposed official community plan for Brookswood draws comparison to Willoughby, with a common comment being that Brookswood residents don’t want to see the creation of “another Willoughby.”
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Yet those who move to Willoughby are often unaware of these issues, especially since many come from outside Langley.
At an Oct. 3 council meeting, Vanessa and Matt Critchley spoke up for a development in Murrayville, one that includes condos and townhouses, and which has drawn some muted concerns from neighbours over density and parking issues.
“We need more housing for families,” said Vanessa.
She explained that she and her husband were both recent arrivals to Langley, moving here in February. They had left North Vancouver, finding it unaffordable, and had bought a townhouse in Willoughby.
Density is higher in Willoughby, particularly in parts of the Yorkson area, around 208th Street and 80th Avenue. But it isn’t dissuading buyers, who are seeking affordable housing.
“People that live there love it,” said Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese.
He acknowledged that affordability is a major reason for the area’s desireability, but said that there are also parks, greenways, and in the last few years, increasing access to transit.
A critic of the pattern of development in Willoughby is Councillor Kim Richter. She’s particularly taken aim at parking and traffic issues, and she’s also fought to see density lower in Brookswood.
But she knows there are people who like Willoughby.
“I think the people who actually live in Willoughby actually like Willoughby,” she said.
She said it’s important to not simply repeat the same plan.
“What we’re hearing is we don’t have to have the same type of housing everywhere in the Township.”
Residents in Willoughby do have issues with their neighbourhood – notably with parking, schools, and internal debates on density.