Talking Willoughby, Brookswood, roads & marijuana with candidate Michael Pratt…
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
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.
MICHAEL: In regards to fixing the major issue of 208th, it’s clear to see the old model isn’t working. Municipal Council is supposed to be good stewards of the community, and having a major arterial road in such a condition – where it’s genuinely unsafe for kids to walk or bike to school on it and traffic is the worse and worse every day – is not being a good steward. That’s why I’ve proposed two possible solutions, that might not be perfect, are starting points from which we can find a lasting solution. The first would be to immediately borrow the money at the favorable rates that we have now as a municipal government to complete 208th from the Willowbrook Connector up to the overpass. Then, as developers build along the length of 208th, we continue to charge the DCCs that we’ve charged previously (perhaps with interest, but that is up for discussion) and use those fees to help pay down the debt retroactively. The second option would be to accumulate these DCCs as development occurs and set them aside in a separate fund so that we can spend it all at once and fix the road. This model wouldn’t be as effective working to fix a problem but would work better in a place like Brookswood where there isn’t a problem yet, and we need to prevent it from happening in the first place. We hear talk about how it’s too expensive to do so right now, well it’s only going to get more expensive the longer we wait.
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?
MICHAEL: I don’t believe the road designs were adequate for the community they were trying to build in Willoughby. For most areas, it could be too little, too late. However, I believe an area we can work to improve is the accessibility to Carvolth Exchange. For being our major transit hub, it is remarkably inaccessible by any method of transportation except for driving. We need to work immediately with Translink and other partners like HUB to make the roads leading to Carvolth more accessible by biking and walking. This includes bike lanes as well as a “bike parkade” at Carvolth as we see at other Translink hubs. This is just one area of improvement that I do believe we can actually make progress on.
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?
MICHAEL : As for my three lessons to be learned for Brookswood, they are as follows:
1. Change the model for building the major roads in the community. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we’re doomed to a community of “what could have been” instead of the community we should be.
2. Reevaluate how we’re building our commercial areas. If, as stated in the Brookswood-Fernridge OCP, we want 200th to be a “great street” and a high street, it makes no sense to me to just have single family and townhomes lining it except for at the “commercial villages” at 32nd and 24th (and even up at 40th/42nd). The model we’re using right now just perpetuates the inefficient and unsustainable model that suburbs have been built with for years. We should be allowing small-scale commercial and retail along 200th, with mixed-use and mixed-affordability housing above, so that we can use less land for massive strip malls and townhomes and preserve that for real green space.
3. Similar to point 2, we need to revaluate our feelings on the word “density”. The type of high-density development that was used in Willoughby – ie. acres upon acres of townhomes, is rightly not what folks in Brookwood-Fernridge want. We should be concentrating mixed-use, 4-6 story projects along 200th in order to build neighbourhoods with real character, and not acres of townhomes which eat up valuable green space and areas for wildlife, parks, and other necessary aspects of a community.
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?
MICHAEL: I do believe NCPs and OCPs can be fluid documents, but it’s the plans themselves that are fluid, not individual properties and the proposed projects on them. Providing variances for each individual proposal sets a dangerous precedent, but if there is enough community feedback and engagement, I do believe the neighbourhood and community plans themselves can be seen as fluid documents.
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?
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?
MICHAEL: To me, phasing the development in Brookswood-Fernridge and limiting the number of NCPs being done at a time goes hand-in-hand. It would be my preference to do one at a time, starting with Booth. However, I do believe we could complete two at a time without stretching ourselves too far, and the first two we should work on should be Booth and Rinn in my opinion.
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.
MICHAEL: (See Above)
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?
MICHAEL: Any housing project should have the parking necessary for the number of people who are going to be living there, and with multi-family developments, the parking should be underground wherever possible. This way we avoid the sprawl that endangers our green spaces and rural lands. We should also look to include bike parking in multi-family developments.
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.
MICHAEL: I do believe that higher-density can help accomplish these things (protecting ALR, helping affordability, etc), but it has to be the right type of density. High-density townhome development doesn’t seem to accomplish any of what we’re hoping for. I believe that a moderate, mixed-use approach to high density along 200th Street, which includes purpose-built rental housing mixed with market-rate condos, can help to provide more affordable options to people. This also means we don’t have to build-out as much sprawl, which is the biggest threat to the ALR and the green space needed for parks. Plus, when we allow for mixed-use developments in greater quantity, we have a greater diversity in our tax base which will allow for better investments in infrastructure and the amenities that are needed.
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?
MICHAEL: I do think there need to be laws brought in to limit the exposure of cannabis to children. I won’t pretend to be an expert on what exactly these policies should be in order to best limit the exposure, but I have it top of mind to figure out. To a point, I believe we can treat it like tobacco, but we need to tread carefully since legal cannabis is such a new thing.