What is the future for Horne Pit?
For many, the rezoning and development applications that are debated and voted on at Council are the most interesting parts of the meeting—at least for planning nerds like me. At the most recent meeting of Council on May 31st, 2021, the afternoon began with a couple of presentations from Langley residents, as per usual, but one presentation in particular raised a question that’s been bothering me for years: what should we do with Horne Pit? Made jointly by Christine Bishop and Christy Juteau, this was an extremely informative presentation raising several environmental concerns with the status and future of the former Horne Pit gravel site. Listening to their presentation, I couldn’t help but ask myself: “Will we repeat the mistakes of our past? Or will we learn, and start to take the goal of building complete
To properly discuss how Brookswood’s future might be different, we need to briefly discuss where lessons can be learned from other neighbourhoods. We can do this by looking at our past planning mistakes positively, instead of in a negative light. They provide direction on how to make adjustments to neighbourhoods that are being built out now, as well as those, like Brookswood, that will be built out in the coming years. For example, Willoughby will be an even more amazing community than it already is. That’s because the various issues that residents currently have to deal with—such as congestion along only two major arterials, lack of parks, and a lack of commercial spaces—will likely be resolved as we move forward. However, that’s only if Council and Staff decide to make a concerted effort to change the current course. I have several close friends who call the neighbourhood home and love living there, and personally, I will be looking to move there soon.
Notwithstanding my belief in Willoughby’s future, no neighbourhood should be immune to constructive criticism, nor is any neighbourhood perfect. One of my biggest concerns with Willoughby is that as it has already been largely built out, and the Township has not been proactive enough in securing passive park and conservation space in close proximity to where people live. I’ve written before how it is wrong that residents of Langley have to drive any further than a few blocks to visit a park that surrounds them with nature. Going forward, when looking to build complete communities, we should right this wrong by ensuring there is a significant park within a 15-minute bike or bus ride, or 20-30 minute walk, for every resident in the urban areas of Langley Township.
According to the Official Community Plan (OCP), the neighbourhoods of Fernridge and Booth are supposed to have eventual populations of 9,000 and 11,700 respectively. This is the equivalent of two Murrayvilles, and these future residents—along with the rest of Brookswood’s residents—deserve to have access to nature within walking or biking distance. That being said, if Brookswood’s development follows the same pattern as Willoughby (as others such Brad Richert have described) there could be upwards of 45% more people in the community than what the OCP projects (Willoughby’s Neighbourhood Community Plans project over 30,000 more people than the original OCP), making it even more important that the Township retains a significant property with as much natural merit as Horne Pit.
I’ve recently written about how it would be a mistake for the Township to sell certain properties, such as the former Alder Inn site. I’d argue that it would be even less wise for the Township to sell properties such as Horne Pit, for, among other things, the lack of potential ongoing revenues in the future compared to properties such as the Alder Inn (which are in prime retail locations). As we’ve unfortunately seen clearly in other neighbourhoods, as development occurs, land that could be acquired for park space becomes prohibitively expensive, and as such, taxpayers become rightly concerned with the price tag associated with expanding parks. If we have 67 acres of publicly-owned land with environmentally sensitive areas, an important watershed, and the space to plant thousands of trees, why would we even consider doing anything with it besides using it for parkland? The OCP designates the area as suburban-style Single Family, which, unfortunately, as we’ve seen, means many trees will not be protected. If we want to get serious about preserving and improving our community’s tree canopy as well as protecting our natural environment, encouraging single-family sprawl at the expense of potentially fantastic park and conservation land would be a major mistake. Let’s not make it.