The fate of a 25-acre parcel of Langley Township forest land has been decided with the announcement Wednesday (Sept. 11) of a $2.5 million deal that sees Trinity Western University (TWU) buying the property from the Township using donated money from the Blaauw family.
TWU has promised no housing will be built on the site.
Money to purchase the Glen Valley Gray Pit Lands in the McLellan Park Forests on 257A Street was donated by Ann Blaauw and children John, Janet, and Jennifer, in memory of their late husband and father, Thomas Blaauw, (pictured below) a long-time resident of Langley who passed away in August of 2012.
The agreement between the university and the Township includes a restrictive covenant which only allows buildings that “enhance the use of the conservation area on the property” in the words of a TWU press release.
Under the terms of the covenant, the Township and general public are to have access to the site for environmental research, education, and recreational purposes.
Located near near 84 Avenue and 260 Street, the 25 acres were placed on the market by the Township in January of this year to help fund a new community centre, swimming pool and ice rink in Aldergrove.
It was the Township’s second attempt at selling land in Glen Valley after a plan to market 21 acres of Township-owned forest on 84 Avenue between 252 and 254 Streets was cancelled in July of 2012 because of a campaign by Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF), a residents’ group that has been campaigning to preserve the entire forest region.
Township Mayor Jack Froese said the sale agreement will keep the land in its natural state for “generations to come.”
“This is a wonderful outcome that will benefit the entire community and the environment,” Froese said in a written statement issued Wednesday.
“People in our community made it very clear that they valued this land and felt it should be conserved,” he added.
Councillor Michelle Sparrow expressed concern the deal could still allow the property to be developed in the future.
Sparrow said because the restrictive covenant only applies to the deal and not to the land, if the university sells the land in the future, the new owners could build housing on the site.
The Township does have the right of first refusal to buy the land back if TWU ever decides to sell, but if the municipal budget is too tight, the 25 acres could be sold to someone else who would have every legal right to build houses, Sparrow warned.
“That to me is a large loophole,” Sparrow told The Times.
Sparrow said it wasn’t clear to her why the restrictive covenant was not applied to the land to ensure any future owners would have to preserve the property.
“The question becomes, why not do that?” Sparrow said.
The TWU announcement of the deal notes a fourth-year environmental university science student recently discovered two species-at-risk in the forest; the Red-Legged frog and the Pacific Side Band snail.
A dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Blaauw lands has been set for Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 4 p.m. on 257A Street.
It will be open to the public.