Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Brookswood/Fernridge Plan back on Council Agenda

About 13,100 people currently live in Brookswood/Fernridge. The Township of Langley began the process of updating the Brookswood/Fernridge Community Plan in 2011. The update was started due to a petition by several landowners in the area. The Township agreed to the update the plan under the condition that the landowners paid for the update process. The landowners agreed.

An update was needed as Council passed a resolution in 2004 to place a moratorium of any new major new development. The moratorium would be lifted once the Brookswood/Fernridge Community Plan was updated.

The original community plan was from the 1980s. It was a suburban and auto-oriented plan. You can read my previous posts about the most recent attempt to update the plan, but the end result was that last year Council chose to not pass the updated plan due to community opposition.

Some of the major reasons that people opposed the updated community plan were they:

Wanted no new development in Brookswood;
Though the density was too high in the updated plan. Didn’t like apartments, townhouses, or row house;
Had traffic/parking concerns;
Wanted more protection of the environment with a focus on trees, wildlife, groundwater, aquifer and streams;
Had concerns about school capacity;
Though there wasn’t enough infrastructure to support an increased population;
Though that there would be an increase in crime if the new community plan was adopted.

People in Brookswood/Fernridge also want more sidewalks, parks, trails, and transit. Sidewalks, parks, and trails are usually paid for by new development. Depending on the outcome of the transit plebiscite, planning for transit might be a moot point in the Township.

What to do about Brookswood/Fernridge is back on the Council agenda. Staff has given Council several options on how to proceed.

According to staff, Council's moratorium on development is no longer valid for several reasons. First, a moratorium can’t be valid indefinitely. Second, because the moratorium was passed as a resolution, it can’t technically superseded a community plan which is a bylaw.

The first option presented to council is to do nothing. By doing nothing though, Council would be reaffirming the 1987 auto-oriented plan. This would see the development of an unsustainable, auto-oriented, sprawl of a community with a total population of 35,000.

The second option would be to start a minor update of the plan. According to Township staff:

The Brookswood area, generally north of 33 A Avenue west of 200 Street and north of 36 Avenue west of 208 Street, remaining essentially as-is, consistent with the existing 1987 Plan;
Minor changes to the commercial areas of the existing 1987 Plan to facilitate change from auto-orientation to more walkable commercial nodes;
Decrease in the density of single family developments and reduction of townhouse and multifamily;
Designated areas in the 2014 Plan to reduce overall population growth and density; and
Increase the areas designated for larger lots (10,000 ft2 compared to 7,000 ft2), that would result in a reduction in the overall population growth and density.

This option would will still not support building a transit-friendly community. If Brookswood/Fernridge residents wanted more parks, trails, and sidewalks, the improvements would have to be paid for by increasing property tax.

The third option presented would be for Council to start a whole new Brookswood/Fernridge plan. This would be similar to the failed 2011-2014 update, but include even more public input.

The fourth option would be for Council to consider separating the Brookswood/Fernridge plan into two separate community plans. This would allow Brookswood to remain in stasis while allowing Council to develop a comprehensive plan for Fernridge.

The final option would be to amend the Official Community Plan to remove urban development as an acceptable land-use in Fernridge. Brookswood would remain unchanged. This would require an update to the current Brookswood/Fernridge Plan, and the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy.

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