Talking Willoughby, Brookswood, roads & marijuana with candidate Eric Woodward…
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.
ERIC: As you noted in the question, we have more than one “208th Street” in our community, and the problem is only getting worse. It has become a symbol for how not to build out a new area. Kids can’t even walk to school safely. If a municipality can’t even get roads right, we have to fix it.
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?
ERIC: Well, the road network certainly won’t be if Council keeps making poor planning and development decisions, like removing mixed-use residential from our commercial town centres — like this Council did this term — or planning for single story strip malls next to farmland, like we are at 216th Street and 80th Avenue.
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?
ERIC: We need to put in place a real plan to save groves of mature trees, and the 20% density bonus model adopted by this Council is not going to get it done. Most developers think they can get a 20% density from this Council for free, anyway, because they probably can.
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?
ERIC: There is middle ground here, but it only works if Council is charge, not developers. The Willoughby Official Community Pan is now 20 years old, so some flexibility is needed as we recognize mistakes, and want to do things better. But I don’t agree with a rezoning like this without concessions elsewhere. We should not be adding high density not previously anticipated without an understanding that we need to get something in return for this, be it lower density somewhere else, or some other trade-off, like additional green space, or a portion of the significant land lifts to build amenities, like a seniors centre.
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?
ERIC: I believe the Williams Neighbourhood Plan is one of the worst neighbourhood plans we have ever produced. It is simply absurd to be building a new commercial area with surface parking lots next to farmland, designed for the freeway. We need to be locating that on the other side of the plan so residents of Yorkson can walk to it!
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?
ERIC: I do not support simultaneous planning on multiple neighbourhoods, with the possible exception of perhaps doing Booth and Finn together, first, since they are both adjacent to the developed areas. But none should be “accelerated” with special taxpayer funding as this Council approved this term. This was not done in Willoughby, and there is no need to do it in Brookswood/Fernridge. Good neighbourhood planning takes time, and we have many issues to get right in Brookswood.
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.
ERIC: Well, it is too late now to do that in Willoughby, since all neighbourhood plans are done, with the potential to still fix Williams, hopefully.
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?
ERIC: We need to require more visitor parking, and allow for on-street parking. There is no reason to have these wide areas for major roads, and not have on-street parking for residents to use, which also slows cars down, adds pedestrian activity, and neighbourhood character, with better street design, not “freeways”.
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.
ERIC: Affordability is somewhat a supply problem, for sure, and Langley must first do its part within a regional effort, first by not removing density exactly where it should go, such as above Willoughby Centre commercial, which this Council allowed the developer to do. That could have been units right where they should go next to services, for seniors and young people, two groups especially hit hard by the affordability crisis. We have to get these basics right, at least.
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?
ERIC: When I am eating dinner on a nice patio, or enjoying a beer at a local microbrewery, I don’t want to breathe marijuana smoke, any more than I do cigarette smoke. It is also a workers’ safety issue, just as it was with cigarette smoke. I see no issue where, whatsoever, to treat it exactly the same, as a legal product, yet one that affects those nearby when it is consumed. We can make it work, just as we have with cigarettes.