10 Questions with Michelle Connerty

Talking Willoughby, Brookswood, roads & marijuana with candidate Michelle Connerty…

The other week I sent a questionnaire to almost (I couldn’t find an email for a few) every candidate running for Council (not Mayor). The questions were intended to be nonpartisan, important, and focused on the future of Langley. I deeply appreciate the responses received as it would have taken these candidates serious time to respond. I hope that if you like the responses provided that you’ll share the posts of your favourite candidates. These posts are NOT endorsements of any candidate and the answers have NOT been edited. -Brad Richert

-1-

BRAD: Do you have a tangible solution for solving the highly perceived traffic woes in Willoughby, especially along 208th Street, 80th Avenue and 72nd Avenue.

MICHELLE: I believe we need to finish these roads now, immediately. Traffic congestion is causing all sorts of environmental issues (sitting still idling, travelling further to avoid congestion, etc.). Willoughby is the central nervous system of Langley and this needs to be solved quickly. Currently the Township is waiting for the properties that front onto 208th to develop and then they will make those specific property owners pay for the upgrade. This is holding the rest of us hostage. I think we need to borrow the money now and spread the cost throughout the Township or at least the general area to recoup the cost from all undeveloped property owners that will benefit from the upgrades. All areas of the Township will benefit from this traffic chaos being solved.

-2-

BRAD: Do you believe that road design in Willoughby’s NCPs are adequate for a build out population of 80,000-100,000? If not, do you believe they can be improved, if so, how?

MICHELLE: The design in the NCP’s maybe adequate, however, the implementation of them (build and then service) does not work. I believe we should phase in development to allow the Township to complete major infrastructure projects before we allow too much more development. No, the way we’ve been planning and executing development is flawed. I think there should a very short moratorium (no more than a few months) on development in Willoughby to review what has worked, what is not working and redesign what needs to changed to ensure we are not replicating the same flawed plans repeatedly.

-3-

BRAD: Please provide up to 3 items that you believe can be improved in Brookswood’s NCPs that were missed in Willoughby’s planning. Will you advocate for these improvements before adopting further NCPs?

MICHELLE:

  1. Green space, parks and school planning and funding prior to development.
  2. Parking – how can we build houses with one or two suites, upwards of six cars per household and find adequate parking for them within our neighbourhoods?  This needs careful thought and planning to provide additional street parking where dense single family dwellings are going to be built.
  3. Tree retention – clear cutting should be a last resort option.  Adequate incentives and penalties should be provide to ensure as many large “significant” trees are retained and taken care of

-4-

BRAD: A recent application for at Shepherd of the Valley in Willoughby was passed unanimously (absent Councillor Richter), changing the NCP zoning of Institutional/church to a high density comprehensive development zoning. Do you view NCPs in Willoughby (and soon Brookswood) to be very flexible “living documents” or do you maintain holding to a more strict interpretation of an NCP?

MICHELLE: I believe that NCPs should be strictly interpreted and that variances should be the exception, not the “norm”. Any variances should be for the benefit of the community and not for the benefit of the Developer. In this case there is a real benefit to the community so I like the project – I am unhappy that so many upscales to the NCP have already been made that this project just ends up causing more headaches and seems as if it’s just one more variance. While affordable housing is needed desperately in our Community, this was the wrong place to put this type of housing at the stage it was introduced (end of area build out), in my opinion.

-5-

BRAD: The Williams plan is moving forward with a traditional suburban style commercial core at the new 216th Street interchange. Do you believe for this plan adequately “future-proofs” the Northeast quadrant of Willoughby?

MICHELLE: No, I don’t believe this is the “right” development for this Neighbourhood. This is going to be a very busy commercial core servicing not only Willoughby and Walnut Grove but also Highway 1 customers/consumers. This should have been thought out more thoroughly and designed to allow for the incredible amount of local and outside traffic it is going to draw. Hopefully there is time to take another look at this development and make the necessary amendments.

-6-

BRAD: Brookswood is moving forward with simultaneous NCPs. Do you support this? Explain. Should one NCP be done at a time. If so, which area is priority?

MICHELLE: I do not support simultaneous NCPs being built out. Phasing is a key component of why Willoughby has been so poorly executed. Development of sewer and storm management systems should designate when and where development occurs as well as streets being widened and sidewalks and lighting being installed. More than one massive build out in our small area at a time will be hugely disruptive the current occupants of the area. I think any of the bordering neighbourhoods to the developed area would be a natural progression. I would entertain the possibility of two of those bordering neighbourhoods being developed out at the same time if we could get infrastructure in place prior to the development starting.

-7-

BRAD: Phased development has been discussed for Brookswood, but no mechanism is yet in place. Do you support phased development such as in South Surrey’s Grandview neighbourhood? Explain.

MICHELLE: Yes, I do fully support phased development so that residents know when and where the disruption in moving around our Community will be happening. This allows for well planned out and executed streets, sidewalks, intersections, pedestrian crossings, etc. prior to development.

-8-

BRAD: Parking is a common issue in many neighbourhoods in Langley, yet enjoys some of the most relaxed parking allowances in the region. Should new developments have more parking or less? Are there other parking-related solutions in your platform?

MICHELLE: Parking should be realistic – i.e., 1 car for every adult person in a household where transit is either not available or rarely workable. Where transit is regular and accessible – less onerous parking requirements could be considered but no less than 1 space for every two adults would be acceptable to me. New developments should have more parking rather than less, if in the future there is an excessive amount of parking available, the option to convert these spaces into recreational/amenity options or green spaces could be considered

-9-

BRAD: Higher density in Langley is suggested as a means to increase housing affordability, pay for amenities/infrastructure and protect ALR land. Agree or disagree? Explain.

MICHELLE: I think that higher density town centres are more palatable to the majority of residents of the TOL rather than “urban sprawl”. However, I don’t believe we (as a Township) want to see high rises outside of Willoughby (and possibly downtown Aldergrove ) in the foreseeable future. Four to six storey apartment buildings fit the “feel” of these more rural communities (Brookswood, Fernridge, Aldergrove, Walnut Grove) and would be considered reasonable in commercial or just outside commercial cores.

-10-

BRAD: Some communities are banning the smoking of legal marijuana in all public places. Some are restricting the use of the substance in a fashion similar to tobacco cigarettes. What are your views on a potential municipal bylaw?

MICHELLE: I believe that marijuana should be restricted exactly the same as tobacco smoke. I personally do not enjoy inhaling any type of smoke and find it offensive. I would support a bylaw that moves in that direction.

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