Willoughby apartment complex gets third reading

Christina Atchison and son Austin walk past the site of the Forewest development Wednesday morning. The first phase of the project was given third reading by Township council.  - Dan Ferguson/Langley Times
Christina Atchison and son Austin walk past the site of the Forewest development Wednesday morning. The first phase of the project was given third reading by Township council.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson/Langley Times

There were a few muttered complaints and at least one audible obscenity from the audience Monday night when the Township of Langley approved the first phase of a housing development that will build seven apartments at the bottom of the Willoughby slope.

“What a f*** joke,”  someone grumbled, moments after the council vote on the Forewest Construction development plan for the 10-acre site north of 68 Avenue, between 200 and 201 Streets.

There were a few groans from the audience during the debate leading up to the decision that saw the project pass with Councillors Kim Richter and David Davis opposed (Councillor Michelle Sparrow was not present for the vote).

The vote gave third reading to the necessary changes to the property zoning to permit construction.

The next and last step in the process, a vote on final approval, is expected before the end of the year.

The property has been been a source of controversy for several years, ever since the developer first proposed what it has described as an alternative to the horizontal suburban growth currently seen in some parts of Willoughby.

In October, 2010, council defeated a Forewest proposal to construct 607 apartments in eight buildings and 14 townhouses following a public hearing that heard residents complain the development was too dense, would put pressure on local schools and congest local streets.

The same arguments were revived when the developer sought approval for the revised project that includes seven apartment buildings with 475 units, 26 townhouses, four duplexes and two single family homes.

A petition against the new project design generated 252 signatures.

In response, Forewest filed a traffic study that estimated the new development will add no more than one to two vehicles a minute on 201 Street during peak hours of 7-9 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. during the week, and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturdays.

Additional traffic calming on 201 Street between 68 and 69 Avenues would also help to slow down traffic.

The school district estimates the development will bring in no more than 82 children — 43 in elementary school and 39 in high school.

On Monday, most members of council said concerns about the impact on the local school and traffic have been addressed.

“I think the school issue is at a point where it is taken care of,” Councillor Charlie Fox said, adding “450 square foot to 700 square foot condominiums don’t generate children.”

Davis disagreed.

“You can still produce children in a smaller house,” he said.

The project packs too much density into too little space and it will not age well, Davis predicted.

“I don’t think in 10 years I would want to live in it,” Davis said.

Councillor Bob Long said traffic calming measures are in place that will answer resident concerns about potential safety hazards.

Those measures were not enough to satisfy Richter.

“The developer means well,” Richter said, “but why on earth would we want 500 cars going down a street where a school is located?”

She would like to see the project altered to reduce density on the east side.

“This needs to go back to the drawing board,” Richter said, but no other council member would support her proposal.

Councillor Steve Ferguson said the project, which will be phased in over several years, will have “not that large an impact” on neighbouring houses.

Councillor Bev Dornan said the school district is taking steps to accommodate an increase in tech student population.

“The school issue will, I think, be taken care of,” Dornan said.

Councillor Grant Ward agreed, calling the project “a marvelous development for this particular area.”

CARP South Fraser Chapter, a group that advocates for seniors, backs the plan because the developer has agreed to build at least 25 per cent of the project to comply with the Township’s Basic Adaptable Housing.

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