Tuesday, October 4, 2016

October 3, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Redevelopment and new lane concern some residents

This week’s City of Langley council meeting notes will be in two parts. Today, I will be posting about the proposed rezoning of 19660, 19674, and 19680 55A Avenue to accommodate a 19 unit townhouse development. This area is designated medium density in the Official Community Plan, and has been for over two decades.

View of proposed 19 unit townhouse development from 55 A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

This is a former single-family housing area which is transitioning to a higher density. To the south of the property being rezoned is an older, gated single-story townhouse development called Huntsfield Green that was built in the early 1990s. It is also medium density.

Location of rezoning application. Select image to enlarge.

About 40 residents from Huntsfield Green were at the public hearing to express their opposition to the rezoning. Some of the reasons for the opposition included:

  • Not knowing the area was zoned medium density.
  • Concerns about the increase in traffic noise in the lane on the north side of Huntsfield Green due to the new townhouse development.
  • Concerns that the retaining wall and new fencing on the north side of Huntsfield Green to support the lane will not be technically sound.
  • Concerns about the loss of privacy as the new townhouse units are three-storeys.

The residents from Huntsfield Green that attended the public hearing did not want to see the lane constructed, but instead wanted to have vehicle access to the proposed townhouse development via the street. The City's development guidelines state that whenever a lane is available, vehicle access should be provided via the lane.

Site plan of proposed 19 unit townhouse development. Select image to enlarge.

There are some good reasons for providing vehicle access via lanes including enhanced safety for walking and cycling, and the creation of a more livable street. There is a good technical bulletin from the UBC School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture which outlines the benefits of this type of design.

Interesting enough, the lane actually provides separation between the 19 unit townhouse development and Huntsfield Green which wouldn’t exist if access was provided via the main street.

One of the questions I asked the proponent of the development was what they were doing to ensure the privacy of both Huntsfield Green and residents of their project. The patios in the development will be oriented away from Huntsfield Green, and trees will be planted to further enhance privacy.

As far as the concern about the construction of the retaining wall, there are professional standards that must be met.

It is unfortunate that some residents didn’t know that they were in a medium density area. One of the things that I’d like to see completed is a comprehensive update of our Official Community Plan. The accompanying public engagement would be an opportunity for people to develop a renewed vision for the community, and would certainly increase awareness around lane-use.

There were also concerns expressed by other residents that the lane won't be able handle the traffic, service vehicles, or emergency vehicles as a result of this proposed development. City staff noted that the lane is designed to accommodate current and future traffic levels, plus all service and emergency vehicles.

There were a few other residents in the area that came out to the public hearing to express their concerns of people parking in areas where they shouldn’t, and also about speeding traffic along 198 Street. While not related to the development, the City needs to investigate possible traffic calming and parking enforcement in the area.

At the end of the day, the rezoning application was consistent with our Official Community Plan, zoning, and development guidelines. It was given third reading with Councillor van den Broek opposed.

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