Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Brookswood Community Plan, what went wrong?

Last night, Township of Langley Council rejected the proposed updated community plan for Brookswood. You can read my thoughts about the plan on a post I wrote last year, but the following land-use map shows what the Township was proposing for the community.

Proposed land-use plan for Brookswood/Fernridge. Click map to enlarge.

When a community plan gets rejected, it means that something went wrong in the planning process. A successful community plan needs to engage the community early in the planning process, and often throughout the planning process.

The Township started on the right path when they hosted a series of community workshops in 2012. Out of the workshops citizens noted the following about their community.

When asked about the existing characteristics of the community, most described the community with words like rural, quiet, clean, green, trees, and wildlife.

When asked about the future vision of the community, most people at the workshops wanted to see upgraded infrastructure like sidewalks, trails, bike lanes and the like. They also wanted to ensure the protection of trees and the environment. Interestingly enough, people also wanted to see more local retail clusters with higher densities in some areas. Did the proposed Brookswood community plan align with the vision of the community?

Required open houses and public hearings are actually pretty horrible ways to engage a community. They don’t allow for full collaboration with the community. Open houses and public hearing also tend to only attract people that are opposed to proposals. Once a plan reaches open house, it is usually close to being done with little opportunity for change.

I think the Township was off to a good start with having community workshops to launch the Brookswood community plan update process. While the Township engaged citizens early, they may not have followed through with that engagement.

The Township of Langley did a great job engaging with the community when it developed its Sustainability Charter and the Aldergrove Core Plan. Going forward, the Township should look at expanding this kind of planning practice for new large plans like the Brookswood community plan.

While fully engaging with the community takes more time and a lot of energy, in the end you get a plan that the majority of the community can support and feel ownership of. When the naysayers arrive, as they always do, the Township will have the confidence to approve a plan knowing they fully engaged with the community.

I don’t know what’s next for Brookswood, but if the Township wants to update that community plan again, it needs to reboot the planning and community engagement process.

1 comment:

Richmond Guy said...

I think one of the major problems is that when the naysayers loudly proclaim the negative aspects of the plan (real or imagined), there is nobody to provide the counter position. Planners are not going to go around advocating for a draft community plan. In the case of a rezoning proposed by a developer, the positive aspects of the plan (greater affordability and energy efficiency, provision of community amenities and improved services) can be articulated by the developer to counter the naysayers. With a municipally-presented community plan, the naysayers have the floor uncontested.