Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Final Plan for North East Gordon Neighbourhood

Over the last little while, the Township of Langley had been reviewing the original Willoughby neighbourhood plans with the overall goal of making the community more accessible. Examples of changed neighbourhood plans include the recently adopted Carvolth Plan and the pending North East Gordon Neighbourhood update which I’ve posted about in the past.

Original land-use plan for North East Gordon Neighbourhood. Click image to enlarge.

With all the talk about 200th Street being the main urban corridor, it may actually be 208th Street that will become the multi-modal boulevard in Willoughby. In Yorkson —the northern most area along the 208th Street corridor— a higher-density, mixed-use node is being built around 80th Avenue at 208th Street. In North East Gordon, the Township is proposing to allow a higher-density, mixed-used nodes at 72nd Avenue/208th Street and 68th Avenue/207th Street.

These nodes and the surround areas in North East Gordon will include a verity of building types including mixed-use, apartments, townhouses, row houses, live/work townhouses, and even some single-family houses. Along the 208th Street corridor outside of the nodes, the Township will allow townhouses and apartments with densities that range from 16 to 22 units per acre. These densities are more than enough to support a frequent transit network in the area. There is one area of concern in this plan around the 72nd Avenue/208th Street node.

Proposed land-use plan for North East Gordon Neighbourhood, including mixed-use along 72nd Avenue. Click image to enlarge.

One of the lessons that I hope the Township has learned is that allowing the construction of single-family houses in a new area before proposing higher-density development is a recipe for conflict. While allowing mixed-use nodes will benefit all residents in an area, some single-family residents are initially fearful of proposed changes. In the Township, this usually ends up with very long, very impassioned public hearings.

The 72nd Avenue/208th Street node suffered at a public hearing this April. As a result of the public hearing, Township Council asked staff to modify the 72nd Avenue/208th Street node. This resulted in the node's density being dramatically reduced, and land-use designations changed.

The scariest parts is that the original plan called for mixed-use along 72nd Avenue. The new plan now has a “commercial” zone on the southeast side of 72nd Avenue, then apartment, and then steps down to townhouses.

Final land-use plan for North East Gordon Neighbourhood, including reduction in density. Click image to enlarge.

I looked at the definition of “commercial” in the proposed North East Gordon plan. While the rest of the plan talks about mixed-use commercial areas that give pedestrians priority, require buildings to front the street, and do not permit parking between the sidewalk and the front of buildings; all the commercial land-use designation talks about is requiring a three-storey building. It does not need to be mixed-use and could likely results in nothing more than a glorified auto-oriented strip mall or office park.

I have to wonder if this “commercial” zone and reduction in density in the 72nd Avenue/208th Street node will compromise the original vision of creating a walkable and transit-friendly 208th Street corridor. Overall, I’m impressed with the updated North East Gordon, but I’m disappointed that Township Council requested a change to the 72nd Avenue/208th Street node.

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