Letter: Langley Township could be truly innovative in Williams neighbourhood

A local letter writer calls on local government to plan for the future.

Dear Editor,

The Williams Neighbourhood can be one of Langley’s most unique communities

One of the more contentious issues in the past few years in the Township was the creation of the University District across from Trinity Western. With the extension of 80th Avenue through the area to connect to Glover Road, we may yet see the development of the envisioned district, however the eastern edge of the Williams neighbourhood could be an even more interesting and promising area. Applying some creative thinking to the plan as it stands could potentially solve a couple of problems, such as risk to ALR land in the area as well as the competitive risk to Willoughby Town Centre and Fort Langley.

Anyone who has recently visited Wesbrook Village on the south edge of UBC’s campus in Vancouver knows how they’ve created an area that’s accessible to the rest of campus by transit, as well as to downtown Vancouver and virtually everywhere else in the Lower Mainland.

It’s an area with a unique feel to it, it’s very walkable, and there’s a palpable sense of community about it centred around the local grocery store (a Save-on-Foods) and other community amenities. If this all sounds familiar, it’s because these are also the qualities that are called for in the neighbourhood plan for Williams, and that were supported at Monday’s marathon public hearing on the plan. The issue that drew the most debate was the proposed commercial area in Williams. No matter the size of the proposed grocery store and neighbourhood convenience area, one thing that should be considered is how the land in the area can best be used.

In the proposed University District to the east, ALR land could potentially be used for development. Protecting our farmland is important, and if we can develop a neighbourhood in Williams that caters not only to the residents of that area and eastern Walnut Grove, but also TWU, then why don’t we?

Mixed-use development at the corner of 80th and 216th, including commercial and residential apartments would add population to support the grocery store and neighbourhood shops or restaurants and other services, will fit in with the ‘gateway’ aspect of the area once the interchange is built, and support better transit in the area for the residents, the university, and the future elementary school in the neighbourhood. It would increase the walkability of the area, and ensure Willoughby Town Centre and the Williams area have equal treatment when it comes to commercial development.

Innovation in housing is going to be important in the coming years. Whether its families, students, or folks looking to downsize, a mix of housing types in key areas will be important. The Williams neighbourhood is lucky, because it’s not one of those ‘in-the-middle-of-nowhere’ neighbourhoods that are built without any consideration of the services the residents need. There’s a real possibility to create a very unique neighbourhood in Langley that isn’t just more of the same, and if Township staff and the developer can continue to work together, they can make the plan the envy of the Fraser Valley before it gets to third and final reading.

Michael Pratt, Murrayville

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