Did you miss Part 1 and Part 2?
Woodward’s Williams 2.0 motion defeated 5-4
In a motion that scolds the recently adopted Williams plan for the substandard auto-centric typically suburban plan that it is, Councillor Woodward looked for an attempt to improve at least a part of it. His idea was to take the most controversial Northeast quadrant of the Williams NCP and change it to a “Special Study Area” in hopes that the strip mall and gas bar could be improved on before shovels were in the ground. Apart from his not so veiled criticism of the plan, his compromise to the members of Council that adopted the plan was that the approval of this Special Study Area would not halt any other development in the NCP.
It would appear that Councillor Woodward believes that the Williams NCP was rushed into adoption at the last council meeting of the previous term which led to a plan with “little meaningful mixed- use, innovative urban design”. In his explanation, Councillor Woodward stated that the plan isn’t terrible, but Council can do a little bit better without holding up the entire plan. However, it was his suggestion that because the Williams plan was adopted on the last council meeting during an election that seemed to really irk Mayor Froese, who seemed to ignore everything else in the discussion and focus on this:
“So that means that every motion that happened the last council meeting the last term is now meaningless? I find that hard to believe. This is something that had been worked on for the entire term of council.” – Mayor Jack Froese
Mayor Jack Froese was adamant that public input had been considered for the Williams NCP and that we have a good plan in front of us:
“I think it’s going to be a great area… yes, it is car-oriented, it is right on a corner of a Freeway… so yes, there is going to be some car-oriented services cause when I travel down Highway 1 I like to pull off, get my gas, get my coffee and go again… the plan’s done, it’s finished.” -Mayor Jack Froese
Councillor Whitmarsh also couldn’t see how anything near a Highway interchange couldn’t be anything but auto-oriented:
“…is going to be a lot of vehicles that are going to go there being a significant interchange. It DOES need to be auto-centric sort of location for that reason.” – Councillor Blair Whitmarsh
He went on to give obvious ideas about work placement and services that have nothing to do with the motion before providing his circular reasoning that most Trinity Western University students will be drive instead of bike so we need to cater to this because its only 3 minutes away. Councillor Whitmarsh, if you promote cars, you will get cars. Thanks for keeping Langley in a 1950’s mindset.
Councillor Ferguson echoed the status quo:
“I guess if you don’t want “Highway commercial”, I guess you don’t build close to a highway” – Councillor Steve Ferguson
He went on to compare the coming single story grocery store and gas bar, which he referred to as “boutique commerical” instead of a strip mall, to the “attractive” multi-story buildings at the 200th Street interchange as though they are the same thing. My understanding is that the the 200th Street Gateway is probably closer to what Councillor Woodward is pushing for than what is proposed. Councillor Ferguson continued on to give lots of ideas about “attractive” or “pleasant” developments in Langley and Surrey as evidence that this is what staff wants to see here. Then he said that the McDonald’s Restaurant at the corner of 200th Street & 84th Avenue, which was approved by using the old land use instead of the new OCP/NCP is “the idea of the future”, because of its exterior finishings, driveway placement and landscaping. Considering that I strongly opposed that development at that public hearing years ago for being the opposite of “the future”, I’m not a huge fan of that single use, massive parking lot development which was suppose to be a multi-use retail/office complex to service the apartment building that will be built all around it. Instead of attracting well paying jobs and vibrant retail, we got a drive-thru and minimum wage part-time employment. If that’s a great example of Langley’s “future”, I’m worried.
Councillor Richter admitted that she still has reservations about a big Canadian Tire with a big parking lot going in and would rather see a HighStreet type development. Councillor Long shared Mayor Froese’s issue that the public already had a chance for input and its been planned and he was “happy with the process”. Councillor Margaret Kunst spoke up for the first time this term, admitting that while this “may not be the perfect plan”, there has been 3 years of planning and input from the public and business community. She also suggested that it isn’t fair to change the plan after investments have been made. It is interesting that I believe this area in questions is already owned by two developers, so I don’t believe there was any investments made after the adoption of the plan. Conveniently, there was no mention at the council meeting of what their level of involvement was during the course of the plan or if any Councillors had accepted campaign contributions or worked alongside these developers.
Moving along, Councillor Davis had a difference of opinion from the status quo:
“What this motion means is that we’re thinking that we can use this for better… because no matter how you dress a pig up it’s still a pig. It’s still gonna be a strip mall. – Councillor David Davis
Councillor Woodward defended his motion saying that he didn’t suggest to reboot everything as Councillor Long suggested, rather:
“I also did not suggest that we are going to develop a walkable community next to the freeway. I never once said that. What I said was, let’s make it a little bit better than a gas station and a single story grocery store with a parking lot in front of it, add a little bit more innovative land use planning to it, whether that is defined as some mixed use housing to add some residents there overnight to add some kind of neighbourhood vibrancy beyond an office and a gas station.” – Councillor Woodward
Not surprisingly, the motion was defeated in a 5-4 split with Mayor Froese, Councillors Long, Ferguson, Whitmarsh and Kunst opposed, and so the status quo at Williams NCP will prevail.
I think the proposal for a special study area is being used differently in this case, but I have heard some discussion surrounding previous use of the ‘special study area’ designation for ALR/ALR-adjacent land as a way of signaling to developers/speculators that these plots may be considered for exclusion. Any thoughts on this?
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Thanks for the comments Cheryl.
The trouble with Special Study Areas is the uncertainty of investment involvement. I haven’t seen any SSA’s developed in recent years. What I’ve seen in Willoughby over the past decade is that developers fear the uncertainty so they stay away from purchasing the properties altogether. If you were putting together a pro forma, do you go with something you know will be 12-18 UPA and definitely pass council or do you throw caution to the wind, buy a property on speculation in the middle of a development area and hope for the best? With values ranging from $2.5m-3m per acre, that’s a significant risk.
I tend to focus on Willoughby’s development in recent years so I’m not aware of any recent (ie 2010-2018) SSA’s that are affecting the ALR. I was living outside of Langley during the development of Highpointe & Salmon River areas – perhaps that’s what the reference is to? Unfortunately I don’t have the history on that.
During his election campaign, Steve Ferguson told me and another, whose votes he was lobbying for that he had “re-invented” himself. I see no change…same ole, same ole, lots of words without really saying anything but supporting the status quo. Shame.