• Michael Pratt

Should there be development in Salmon River with no Neighbourhood Plan?

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to meet with several residents of the Salmon River Uplands, specifically the Tall Timbers Estates neighbourhood. We chatted about a range of topics, but top of mind was the recently publicized development at 5759 240th Street. You may have heard of it already: the proposal is for 39 single-family lots, which will result in 4,083 of the 6,281 trees on the property being removed, with no discernable attempt to preserve significant strands of trees or community benefit beyond the mandated Community Amenity Contribution (CAC), which will be over $260,000. While greenspace or additional benefit to the community beyond the addition of 39 homes and CAC money are not required as per Langley’s Rural Plan, this proposed development sits on almost 45 acres of land, with several other large developments proposed or in the works, and countless properties throughout the Salmon River Uplands and surrounding Hoppington area that could be subdivided and developed, this proposal truly could be the tip of the iceberg.

With the precedent set by this proposal, and with almost 5,500 acres of land within the areas of the Salmon River Uplands and the underlying Hoppington aquifers, the residents I met with and I agree, the time is now for the Neighbourhood Community Plan (NCP) that has been discussed for decades. Within this area, there are light-industrial uses, a little bit of commercial space, a mix of both Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and developable land, and critically important environmental areas and ecosystems. As development pressure continues to grow in the area, it is extremely important for the Township to have a plan for this development. Unfortunately, there are only so many planners who work for the Township who can work on completing plans at one time. The decision was made to work on 3 of the 4 Brookswood NCPs at the same time, and with SkyTrain to Langley looking more and more likely to be built within the next 5 years, which means Willowbrook needs a modern NCP as soon as possible. With these other priorities, there may not be the resources necessary to complete a Salmon River NCP in the short term.

As such, one course of action could be a moratorium on developments over a certain size in the area until an NCP is complete. Some might see this as an unnecessary government overreach, and I sympathize with that. However, from a developers perspective, there is still land available in Willoughby to build, and even more that will be developable in Brookswood and Fernridge. Aldergrove has a robust Community Plan that would provide developers with plenty of opportunity, and of course there are neighbouring communities in which to build. From the perspectives of the residents, halting development in the area would ensure that they have the opportunity to provide their input into what gets built around them, and as this was one of the biggest reasons why residents are so concerned with the proposed development described above, this is clearly important to them. A moratorium would not mean that if somebody wanted to build a home on their property they couldn’t, and perhaps even smaller-scale developments such as a two-lot subdivision could be allowed in the interim. What it would mean, however, is that neighbourhood-changing developments wouldn’t be allowed to progress until everyone- residents, developers, neighbours, and Council-would have the certainty of what the future of their community holds.

There was a recent Letter to the Editor in the Langley AdvanceTimes by Kirk Robertson which raised some interesting points, and it can certainly be said that a Neighbourhood Plan would help to ensure adequate public input is had prior to any major projects in the area being considered. Issues that are important to everyone with a stake in this community are at hand: preserving and enhancing greenspace and the local environment, ensuring due-process is followed and residents have the chance to provide input, and building a complete community that people are proud of and is as livable as possible. A Neighbourhood Plan would help to ensure that all these important factors are addressed as Langley continues to grow around the Salmon River Uplands, and a moratorium on development until a plan is done would ensure the Uplands remains the beautiful area it is now in the meantime.

But these are just my musings, and I’d love to know what you think. Please click below and fill out the 2-question poll I’ve put together: it will only take 30 seconds, promise!

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