With just 47 per cent of Willoughby built-out and high-density developments continuing to be approved, some residents are saying it’s already too much.
At a May 9 public hearing on a new six-storey apartment building across from Richard Bulpitt Elementary, two nearby homeowners spoke in opposition, comparing living in Willoughby to being “treated like a sardine.”
“Simply put, there are too many houses, townhomes, apartments and individuals that are packed into the area surrounding Richard Bulpitt Elementary,” said Patrick Taylor, who lives down the street from the proposed building site.
“This is evident by the lack of infrastructure, the overcrowding of schools and the overall lack of concern for public safety.”
The proposed development by Focus Architecture calls for 191 apartment units and 118 townhouses on 7.3 acres of land in the 7800 block of 208 Street.
Taylor says the proposal does not include enough parking for the area, as many people use their garages for storage and choose to park on the street, and that additional children coming to the area will cause even further overcrowding of Richard Bulpitt Elementary.
“It appears to me that I need to bring my concerns to council as the Township is being reactive,” he said.
“I encourage the council to instead be proactive and seriously consider the consequences of allowing a six-storey apartment building in the Richard Bulpitt area.”
Another area resident, Frank Paulicelli, who is a retired RCMP officer trained in CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design), echoed Taylor’s comments, warning council that overcrowding the area could lead to future crime.
“The density in that area is getting to be overwhelming — parking, the traffic alone,” he said.
“And I can tell you right now, we’re going to have problems there in the next few years.”
But the proponent said they are simply following the guidelines set out by the Township in the Yorkson Community Plan. The developer must build between a minimum of 40 units per acre — which works out to 281 units for the proposed site — and a maximum of 80 units per acre, or 581 units for that site.
The Focus Architecture proposal for 309 units “is really on the low end of the permissible amount of units that is needed to comply with the Yorkson Community Plan,” said Colin Hogan, a representative for the proponent.
“So while it does seem like we are going from the low end to a lot, we are really on the low end of what is allowed under the community plan.”
Hogan also said the site will actually assist with traffic flow, as one of the requirements is that 78B Avenue is joined through to 208 and 209 Streets.
“We’re actually connecting those two roads, which will give an opportunity for traffic to disperse,” he said.
“Additionally, we’re widening 208 Street and 209 Street.”
That will also open up street parking on 209 Street that does not currently exist, and create two new crosswalks for children walking to Richard Bulpitt, he said.
Township Mayor Jack Froese said he sympathizes with Willoughby residents who feel they live in an incomplete neighbourhood, but that this transition stage will not last forever.
“The area of Willoughby and the different community plans that we have in there really are the highest densities we have in the Township of Langley, and it provides housing that’s affordable to a lot of families,” he told The Times.
“And of course, when people move in, if they are in there early and the area is developing around them, they’re experiencing this transitional feeling where roads aren’t quite complete, parks aren’t quite there, the schools are still being built and the feeling that this is a patchwork quilt, it’s not completely done and hasn’t been very well thought out.”
Froese compares the process to that of Walnut Grove, which garnered similar concerns from residents as it was being built, but today is a very desirable area in the Township.
“I can see the same thing happening in Willoughby,” he said.
“It is a higher density area. To lower the density (will) increase the prices of housing, so there’s a balance to be made … All of these amenities and services that we expect sometimes don’t come instantly. So the transitional areas are difficult for people. But the ultimate build-out and the ultimate transportation plan, road network, schools — certainly once we put this all together — it’s going to be a very complete neighbourhood. So I understand their concerns and we are certainly addressing those.”
With only half of the Willoughby area built-out, there could be another 10 years of development before it is complete.
“As these new developments come in, that’s what brings the better roads and that’s what brings the additional schools. If they don’t come in, we’re left with a patchwork quilt. So it’s one of those Catch-22s,” Froese said.
“It’s not that we aren’t listening, we certainly are listening, (and) staff and planners are looking at what’s been developed and (are) say(ing), ‘Hey, what can we do different in the next one?’ Unfortunately, we can’t always roll back when (community) plans are in place.”