Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Willoughby

On May 4, 1998, the Willoughby Community Plan was passed by Township Council. The plan will see 65,000 people move to the area. There are currently about 17,000 people in Willoughby. In the community plan, there is a section called “Residential Bonus Density 1” which allows for 30 units per hectare (which by the way is the density required to support transit) in exchange for greens space to support the Willoughby trail system and parks in the area.

On June 19, 2000, the Southwest Gordon Estates Neighbourhood Plan was adopted by Township Council. A public hearing for a development proposal in this area was held this Monday and last night. The proposal is to build eight apartment buildings and 14 townhouse units around the 200th Street and 68th Avenue area. The development would see 143 units per hectare on an area originally proposed for 30 units per hectare. To give you an idea of density of the proposed development, it would be what you see in Langley City which is mostly medium density. This development fits with the Townships plan to add more density along 200th Street to support transit and also fits with the general principle of the bonus density program which is to see more usable green space. About 21% of the 4.30 hectare development area will be dedicated to conservation.

Of course, many people from the area surrounding the development came to speak out against the development. The irony of course is that the majority of the people speaking out against the development have only lived in the area for at most 5 years. They are living in what used to be green space when I first moved to Langley. Most of the comments I heard last night where based on knee-jerk emotional responses surrounding parking, preservation, and poverty.

Higher density developments support transit, walking, and cycling which reduces the need for parking. This is a fact. If these people only want low density development, they will never see public transit and will never have a walkable community. Also a fact: 21% of the land in the proposed development would be conserved which is way better than the single family housing in the area. Again without higher density, the Township will never be able to attract the kind of urban amenities that statistic show these people want.

Most of the people at the public hearing talked about how apartments attract the kind of people that they don’t want in their neighborhood. People like me. I live in an apartment, don’t own a car, and make above the regional mean wage. They also don’t want our aging and increasing childless population to have housing options in Langley. In fact, I was shocked to hear former transportation advocate and Interurbanist Sonya Paterson speak out against higher density and what she called “chicken coops”. This is very odd coming from someone who allegedly supports sustainable transportation. I’d like to point out that Sonya moved into a single family house in Willoughby 3 years ago. She then when on to explain how Willoughby is growing too fast and the breaks must be put on development. She and others seemed to be saying,  "I’ve moved to Willoughby, but nobody else can!"

The biggest mistake the Township made was to build low density in Willoughby before higher density. Township council has a choice to make, they can support a sustainable Langley or support suburban sprawl. If they choose to support sprawl, I know that the citizens of the City of Langley will glade take the amenities and economic development dollars that the Township wants to throw away. As a City resident, I can’t wait for my light rail, bike lanes, improved parks, and cultural amenities!

2 comments:

Darren said...

Can you comment on the recent rejection of the proposed development at 68th and 200th?

Joe Zaccaria said...

As I understand it, the proponent ignored the advice of staff with regards to ensuring a proper buffer with the existing homes, as well as paying close attention to height and the topography of the land.

Council already had questions about the proposal based on the facts and the community voice confirmed this. So, Council made a wise choice.

What all of us must realize is that we need density in order to save our agricultural lands, while ensuring that Langley Township gets the rapid transportation options it deserves. So, we cannot accept a green field once we move in to the community. Development will happen and we have to encourage it in order to secure lands that will support our food security, and allow us the transportation options that can help us park the car.

Some say that peak oil will smarten people up. That could prove to be very true. But we can't wait for that to happen. The best choice is for us to work with developers, Council and Township staff to strike the balance that will achieve the best and highest use for the lands, securing our agricultural lands from encroachment and allowing enough density to make RAPID transit and connections in the region and outside the region sustainable.