For 3rd time, Langley tries to pass Brookswood community plan
Plan would see the suburban neighbourhood's population triple over the next 25 years
After years of consultation and multiple setbacks, the Township of Langley is making what could be a final push to pass a new official community plan for one of its key neighbourhoods.
Residents packed a public hearing Tuesday night to give their opinions on an updated community plan for Brookswood-Fernridge. It's one of the municipality's six non-rural neighbourhoods. The community plan was last updated in 1987.
But updating it again is proving quite the challenge.
"There's a sense of frustration with the entire process. When that happens, people tend to say just forget about it," said Councillor Bob Long who has served on council for 18 years.
"And I think that's the wrong attitude. You have to be brave. You have to move forward. This is a very good plan."
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Plan increases population and density
Brookswood-Fernridge is a suburban-rural community directly south of the City of Langley, with approximately 13,000 residents.
The new community plan proposes land use that can accommodate up to 39,000 people within 25 years (up from 35,000 in the old plan), with 70 per cent of the population in single-family homes, compared to 85 per cent today.
Michelle Connerty is one of the members of Leave Brookswood Alone!, a Facebook group that has long opposed the changes on the table.
Connerty says population increases will come to her community but says they would come too quickly and without enough oversight.
"It has to be developed. No question ... but it should be done that in a way that is considerate to the people who are here, the animals that are here, the trees and water and it doesn't have to be a loosey-goosey free-for-all for developers."
She also wants to see pressures on crowded infrastructure alleviated before the municipality commits to a higher population.
"We don't have the schools for it. When I take my kid to the hospital, I have an eight-hour lineup. They say they're going to build the houses and then the schools and the hospitals ... I challenge that. I don't want to be another South Surrey."
Both sides agree debate has become heated, and RCMP are investigating a recent online threat against one councillor.
It's an argument that has been building for years. A similar plan for Brookswood-Fernridge was defeated in 2014 by a 7-2 vote. Years of intense consultations costing tens of thousands of dollars followed, but, in June, a new community plan was also defeated, this time by a 5-4 margin.
Mayor Jack Froese asked for the vote to be reconsidered, and a final vote will take place at some point after Tuesday's public hearing. It's unknown what will happen if that vote also fails.
Those who attended Tuesday's hearing spoke on both sides of the issue, with several focusing on the question of affordability.
Afterwards, local resident Art Bergstrom told CBC News that he supported the new plan because he saw good opportunities for affordable housing.
"I think what people have to understand is that land's really gotten expensive, and people have to accept that there's going to be smaller lot sizes," he said.
"I guess we have to move with the times."
"I just hope that after the hearing tonight, they will realize that change is inevitable, and no plan is no plan," said Long.
"To me, it's kind of foolhardy to vote this one down, but ... we're going to need the five votes to get this through."
Connerty hopes otherwise.
"I think this mayor and council have lost the confidence of the people," she said.
"I don't think pushing this through will be beneficial for anybody, other than the developers and homeowners that want to get out of the area. Not for anybody that actually wants to live here."