New Langley Township council looks to throw out predecessors’ plans

Councillor turned mayor of Langley Township revived debate on projects approved by the previous council, including a controversial plan he never supported.

By Joti Grewal | December 9, 2022 |5:00 am

As a councillor, Eric Woodward occasionally found himself at odds with the previous Langley Township council. Now he’s in the mayor’s seat, flanked by a majority from his slate, and wants to have the final say on projects approved by his former colleagues.

Woodward and five Contract with Langley councillors were elected on the promise of reform. For the new mayor to fulfill his campaign to “find a better way forward” it meant reassessing three projects approved by the township’s last council.

The previous council fervently debated adding 36 acres of agricultural land to the Gloucester industrial park. Woodward was an outspoken critic of the proposal.

Council may now reverse its blessing on that and two other plans entirely.

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The fate of the agricultural land has been hotly contested for years. The owners of the eight properties (located just north of the 264 Street Highway 1 exit) had applied in 2009 to have the lands excluded from the Agricultural Land Reserve. The exclusion was denied by the Agricultural Land Commission. But the matter was taken to court and the ALC was ordered to reconsider its decision. In 2020, the ALC approved the conditional exclusion of the lands.

The properties are currently designated for small farms/country estates. Rezoning them to general industrial would require altering the Official Community Plan, Gloucester Industrial Park Community Plan, and the township’s Rural Plan. It would also require updating the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy and approval from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Woodward took issue with the township’s exchange for the rezoning. He noted that industrial land was valued at around $7 million per acre.

“The compensation package is woefully inadequate for what’s occurring—[36] acres of rural land being put inside the urban boundary of the Gloucester Industrial Estates off to Metro Vancouver in exchange for five acres of wetlands and a few million dollars.”

Then-mayor Jack Froese and councillors who were in favour of the rezoning argued the industrial land would boost the local economy with much-needed jobs.

Woodward pushed back. He asked staff to work with the applicant to improve contributions to the township. His colleagues rejected his call.

But now Woodward is in the mayor’s seat. And he has five councillors supporting him.

The mayor’s call for reconsideration was supported by council with incumbent Coun. Margaret Kunst opposed, and incumbent Coun. Kim Ritcher absent.

Staff was directed to try to extract a higher compensation package from the developer.

Woodward also revived debate on two other projects he had previously supported.
Those plans involved the development of two adjacent properties in a rural neighbourhood adjacent to Highway 1 at the 216 Street Interchange. Both development applications by Qualico Mitchell Williams were approved in July. Woodward voted in favour of both.

One was a proposal for 334 homes that also included a required five-acre school and park site. The second application was to rezone nearly 10 acres of adjacent land to accommodate 20 single family lots and 93 townhouse units on the corner of 80 Avenue and 216 Street.

The previous council approved the rezoning of the 32 acres of land to accommodate the development of seven single family lots and 327 townhouse units. But some councillors, including Woodward, had concerns about the required road realignment. The corner lot at 212 Street hadn’t been purchased by the developer.

Some councillors also raised concerns about loss of mature trees and future density in the area.

Council voted to reconsider both projects. Staff was asked to clarify the road network and density with the developer. Calls to rethink the projects were also voted against by Kunst. Like Woodward, she voted in favour of the project with the previous council.


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Joti Grewal

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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