Monday, July 20, 2009

Sustainability on 200th Street in Jeopardy

I just received word that Township of Langley council has approved stand-alone commercial development going forward along 200th Street (between 76th Avenue and 80th Avenue) before mixed-use, residential development. This is huge blow to sustainable development along the 200th Street corridor. For some background, the Jericho Sub-Neighbourhood Plan states:
While there is agreement that commercial uses should be included at the southwest corner of 80 Avenue and 200 Street, staff feel that the timing of a major and stand-alone commercial development in this location is premature as there is not enough population in the neighbourhood to support such a development. Furthermore, staff believe that commercial uses should be: a) phased in conjunction with other (residential/institutional) uses in the SNP area; b) serve the needs of the local Jericho sub-neighbourhood plan area primarily; c) not compete with, or impact the viability of, other neighbourhoods; d) form part of a mixed use (inc. market housing) development project; and e) not be reliant on traffic along 200 Street. Experience in the Township has demonstrated that residential development in the desired form will not necessarily follow the less challenging commercial development. It is in fact through specific and strategic policies that community commercial centres, such as Walnut Grove, were able to establish and grow.

Sustainable development principles support commercial development in locations that are designed for the neighbourhood not passing traffic and are central to the population to reduce dependence on automobiles. This has the benefit of creating communities based on strong, resilient neighbourhoods and not simply commercial districts dedicated to automobile access.

Given the relatively small existing population in the area, the concept of a stand-alone commercial project exceeding the recommended 5,000 ft2 maximum floor space would appear to mainly capitalize on the exposure provided by 200 Street rather than acting as an anchor for the neighbourhood’s local commercial needs.
At today’s special council meeting, developers from Vancouver asked that commercial-only development be allowed on this section of 200th Street. Without providing mixed-use, this area may be doomed to auto-centric congestion. Without mixed-use development, providing high quality transit becomes next to impossible. With this kind of commercial development going forward, we won’t see sustainable development in this section of 200th street until sometime after 2030! Councillor Bateman, Richter, and Ward all opposed allowing stand-alone commercial development though it looks like these Vancouver developers will be getting their way at the expense of the people of Langley.

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