Monday, January 20, 2014

Opposing Density in Willoughby

Before the Christmas holidays, a development proposal went before Township Council to build housing between 82nd Avenue and 84th Avenue, just north of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' Langley Temple. The proposed project included 153 single-family houses, 8 duplexes, 29 rowhosues, and 54 townshouses. The higher-density housing was to be closest to the temple. According to an article in the Langley Times “church elder Paul Christensen said higher density housing nearest the temple, as called for in the current design, could lead to problems with people using the temple parking lot”. It was almost implied that multi-family housing, and the people who live in multi-family housing, were less desirable than people who live in single-family housing.

The project was defeated in a tie as one council member, Bev Dornan, was away. Because of the tie, Township Mayor Froese brought the project back for consideration last Monday, where it passed.

Tonight, the Township of Langley will be holding a public hearing. One of the items on the agenda will be a proposed housing development with multiply housing types from single-family housing to 6-storey apartment buildings.

Proposed site plan for development just south of Willoughby Town Centre which includes 6-storey apartment buildings. Click image to enlarge.

This proposed development is part of a larger development planned around the under-construction Willoughby Town Centre. The project will incorporate an extensive greenway systems with housing density that steps down from the mixed-use town core. The end result should create a successful walkable node. Because of the proposed 6-storey apartment buildings, there is likely to be some opposition to the project.

Overall plan for residential build-out around Willoughby Town Centre. Click image to enlarge.

Opposing density in Willoughby is nothing new. Population and density has been increasing in Willoughby, but the majority of projects to date have been residential or auto-oriented. To do pretty much anything in Willoughby requires a car. This creates parking and traffic problems.

Unfortunately people are starting to associate density with problems in the community, when the real issue is that Willoughby is a community without a core. Willoughby Town Centre is under construction, and there are plans to build a walkable transit village around the new Park and Ridge, and walkable nodes throughout the community, but these projects will take time to complete. In the meantime, I think that people are become more frustrated.

Unfortunately, the original plans for Willoughby didn’t incorporate sustainable community design principles. The Township has been playing catch-up with their plans over the last few years. Building mixed-use nodes will be key for the successes of Willoughby, I only hope that Township Council understands this and doesn't put the brakes on mixed-use projects during this transition period.

Of course having inadequate transit in Willoughby doesn’t help, which is a why voting to increase transit funding this fall will also be key to the further successes of the community.

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