Brookswood-Fernridge OCP gets one more public hearing

Langley Township council voted for the new hearing to be held in September.

Brookswood and Fernridge residents will have one more chance to comment on the proposed official community plan.

The morning of Monday, July 17, Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese called a special meeting to reconsider the controversial OCP.

After multiple amendments, the OCP was defeated 5-4 July 11. Some councillors opposed the plan because of the many amendments.

Froese exercised his power as mayor to call for a reconsideration. But before that, council voted to hold another public hearing altogether.

Not all councillors were thrilled with the idea of a new public hearing or a reconsideration.

“I don’t think we should be having this meeting today,” said Councillor Angie Quaale.

Another dissenting voice was Coun. Charlie Fox.

“I’m not in favour of another public hearing,” he said.

He said council was becoming involved in a “vicious circle,” that saw them return to the public multiple times after changing the OCP.

“Politics is about making decisions,” Fox said.

But Fox and Quaale were the only two councillors to vote against a new public hearing.

Township staff gave a presentation on the differences between the new, proposed OCP and the 1987 OCP that still governs growth and development in Brookswood.

Among the differences highlighted were the total lack of environmental policies in the old plan, a much less rigorous plan for dealing with stormwater runoff, no policy on trails and green ways – 50 kilometres of trails are in the new plan – and a lack of height restrictions on apartment buildings.

The old plan contemplates about 85 per cent single family housing, versus 70 per cent in the new plan.

Staff showed two hypothetical lots developed under the old and new plan and highlighted how the new one, with density bonuses, allowed for the preservation of 18 to 22 per cent of trees on the land.

If the new plan is not put into place, development becomes more complicated, said Ramin Seifi, the Township’s general manager of community development.

Any development under the old plan has to be tweaked by staff to accommodate the many higher-level rules and regulations that have come into place in the Township since 1987.

If a new OCP and neighbourhood plans are put into place, everything is laid out for possible developers.

There were two reasons for reconsidering a public hearing.

Councillor Michelle Sparrow had called for another hearing, after the 15 amendments that were added to the OCP last week.

She argued that the new version had changed so much, it made sense to let people comment on it again.

A second reason arose during the week.

A Township councillor – not named during the meeting – forwarded copies of a resident’s email, commenting on the OCP, to the rest of the council last week.

After a public hearing, the council is by law not allowed to hear more public input until the third reading of the bylaw. Froese’s reconsideration of the third reading was set for today.

Whether the breach of the rules was serious enough inspired some debate.

“The law is grey on the matter,” said Township administrator Mark Bakken.

The Township sought a legal opinion from a lawyer, which suggested the matter was not damaging enough to invalidate a vote.

But by holding a third reading, any legal issues are dealt with, and the council can again hear from the public all summer long, up to the Sept. 12 meeting.

Froese said it was a matter of justice being done, and of being seen to be done, as he voted in favour of the new public hearing.

The hearing will be held on Sept. 12, at the George Preston Recreation Centre. Residents will be allowed to comment on the entire OCP, including the amendments made last week.

After that hearing, a new vote will be held on the third reading of the OCP. If that passes, the plan will likely come into effect and change the rules for development in Fernridge.

This is Langley Township’s second attempt at updating the Brookswood-Fernridge OCP in three years. A highly unpopular OCP update in 2014 was defeated by the council after serious opposition.

The new version has still attracted criticism for many of the same reasons, including fears about tree protection and density.