A Langford community group is speaking up about a large parcel of forested land that could be rezoned into a development.
The Citizens of South Langford for Sustainable Development (CSLSD) is asking Langford to work towards the creation of a forested park, integrating both development and natural green space.
“We’re not anti-development, we just want to see it developed in a sustainable way,” said group member Nicole Polet.
The rezoning application would be for the 73-acre parcel of land at 950 Worrall Dr. and 804 Latoria Rd. which is privately owned by the Ridley Brothers Development Corp.
Polet has lived in a home bordering the land for five years, but said many in the CSLSD group have lived in the area for much longer. She said residents in her community currently use the forested area for hikes, workouts and recreation and said she event got married on one of the rock bluffs in there.
“The whole community goes there, it’s super valuable,” Polet said. “Right now we’re already kind of using it as a park but if it’s a designated park more people can use it and enjoy it.”
Polet also noted that the area is home to a coastal Douglas fir ecosystem, Garry oak meadows and endangered species like the northern pygmy owl and sharp-tailed snake.
Last week, residents bordering the area were notified of the rezoning application that will be put forward to the planning committee on Mon. July 8. Since then, members of the CSLSD have been canvassing the community and looking for support.
Polet said since they began canvassing, several people have spoken up about disappearing green space in Langford. She said she thinks several people will be at Monday’s meeting to make their voices heard.
Langford Mayor Stew Young said the entire 73 acres will not go solely towards housing. As per city policy, 25 per cent of the land would be natural green space. The city is also asking for a school — which Young says is much needed in the area — and a turf field that the community can use for recreation.
Additionally, Young said he’d like to see a village centre as well so people living in the area have a place to get a coffee or buy some groceries.
“We’re attracting affordable housing and along with that we need them to be able to walk to their school, not drive,” Young said. “We’re building a community.”
Young said the community group is “absolutely right” about needing green space, but said back when the subdivision they live in was built, there were no requirements to preserve natural land.
“When [Polet’s] subdivision was done, there was no school, nothing, they just built it,” Young said. “We’re not doing that anymore in Langford and that’s what people need to recognize.”
Young also noted he is getting complaints from Langford residents who are in favour of affordable housing. He said the complainants have pointed out that the individuals asking to keep the land as a park live in homes many can’t afford.
Details about the development application have not been released yet, but the notice delivered to residents is proposing up to 400 homes that would be built on the land. The application is still in its very early stages and would need to be considered by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee first before going to council. Then, council would decide whether or not to send it to the public hearing stage.
“We’re in an affordable housing crisis and Langford is the only real one that’s actually building single-family homes which 80 per cent of the population in Canada wants,” Young said. “If you’re moving to Langford I want you to own an affordable house, have good new schools and have your kids in recreation and education and I want to make sure we have our trails and our green space…it’s a balance, it’s not one or the other.”
At Monday’s meeting, the CSLSC and other members of the public will present their reasons for wanting to preserve the green space and designate it as a park. Polet said she hopes Langford will listen to the community and incorporate amenities they are asking for. She also said she wants to see some of the more sensitive areas of the land parcel protected to ensure the endangered species are not harmed.
“People want natural green space and that’s what we want to see there,” Polet said.