Brookswood, a classic 1950s subdivision in the Township of Langley, has been locked for years in a dispute over the pace of development. It sits just minutes from malls and highways, but it has a deep country feel.
In late 2017, on the third try in four years, Township Council approved a plan that contemplates significant population growth in the Brookswood-Fernridge planning area. From fewer than 14,000 residents, the population is supposed to grow to 39,000 when projected development is complete. In percentage terms, Langley is growing faster than any other major municipality in Greater Vancouver, and it needs land for medium-density housing. The question here is whether the preservation of an old, sprawling suburb might be justified because of its special character.
Co-tourist Bob Smarz and I walked around part of the planning area on a recent Saturday morning. Starting at the George Preston Recreation Centre north of 42nd Avenue, we went for coffee on the main commercial strip, found a scenic pathway to 32nd Avenue, and returned to the car along semi-rural roads and residential streets.
We saw private lakes with no public access, and neighbours chatting on the big front lawns. It seems certain that some residents have been here from the start, around 1960. They clearly have reason to feel protective about their peace and quiet. There is some development, as older houses crumble and are replaced by bigger and fancier structures, but there is no densification.
(“Who’s going to want to care for these big properties?” Bob asked. We saw a woman in shorts, mid-40s, standing on a garage roof with an implement in her hand. “Immigrants,” I said. “Anyone with a work ethic.”)
The new plan covers 15 square kilometres of Langley, much of it agricultural or woodland. It replaces a 1987 version that also forecast rapid population growth, with a tilt to apartment living. The old plan appears to have limited impact, except perhaps on some of the shopping centre development. As of the adoption of the new plan, only 1 per cent of the dwellings in the area were classified as apartments, with mobile homes making up 14 per cent of the housing stock and detached homes 85 per cent.
One controversial part of the 2017 plan designates a wooded zone north of 32nd Avenue for townhouse and commercial development. Bob and I tried to walk from the existing shopping area to the future residential core, but the sidewalk simply dies away. We stepped away from busy 200th Street to a more pleasant woodland trail.
Fraseropolis.com is dedicated to the growth of urban villages with housing choice, access to transit, and services concentrated in walkable village cores. The properties in Brookswood are pleasant, but housing choice is lacking. Transit coverage is partial, leaving, leaving kids and seniors stranded in some locations. The range of local services is modest.
Even so, I sympathize with the “leave us alone” attitude of residents who have succeeded to this high ground. The Township of Langley has not done well in facilitating complete communities or walkability, despite the reference to these objectives in the 2017 Brookswood plan. New townhome and apartment development on 32nd Avenue will bring more traffic, with limited benefit to the local community in terms of added services.
[This is post #39 in our Urban Villages series.]