A public open house was held Tuesday at Millstream Elementary School to tell the residents of Thetis Heights about the plans soon to be going before Langford City Council to develop the land between them and the Trans Canada Highway.
It’s a little late, though, for some residents.
“To me, it’s like, someone comes over to your house, pulls the wheels off your car, gets the engine half out and tells you, ‘I’m going to propose something to you.’ Well, you’ve already taken the wheels off, why didn’t you come to me before you did that?” said Thetis Heights resident Tony Jennings, whose Nicki Place property backs on the proposed development.
“When we bought the house,” Jennings said, “that was part of the decision – the natural beauty in the backyard. We were told they were never going to be able to build back there, because there wasn’t enough space and it was Thetis Lake Park. There was a nice little dog trail back through there with doggy-bag dispensers and people would come walk their dogs and it was beautiful. That’s all gone now.”
Les Bjola, CEO of Turner Lane Development Corp., hired to oversee the rezoning and development of the property, said these open houses are where concerns such as Jennings’ can be addressed before projects go before council for approval.
“Sometimes you get a ton of people, sometimes you’ll get none,” Bjola said before the meeting got underway. “But we’ll be here for two hours, and people can come and go as they please.”
The meeting ran from 7 to 9 p.m. and saw many neighbours pop by to chime in with concerns.
“We want to be able to deal with people’s issues individually,” Bjola said. “Anything we can do to help them, we want to do that.” Some residents at this particular meeting, for example, had questions about specific trees possibly being removed, and Bjola told them to leave their number and someone would come by their house whenever was good for them to look at the specific trees in the discussion. “You really want to meet with the neighbours,” he said. “They want to put a face to it, they want to know and you want to ensure them you’re not coming in to wreck their neighbourhood.”
Bjola said the main concerns he heard from the residents were around prospective traffic and parking issues, the lack of a trail head into Thetis Lake Park and concern that the townhouses might lower the value of their homes.
One resident, he said, had concerns over one particular tree, “so we’re going to go have a look at it and see if it’s expected to be impacted.” Another said his home was flooding and wondered if the development could help with storm water drainage and remediate that.
“We had a great turnout. I think we solved some misconceptions. I think we got a bunch of ideas we can take away to make people happier. When I sit down to do my drawings, I’m going to have all these things in my head,” Bjola said.
He expects to make adjustments to the plan while it’s being designed, based on what he’s heard from the community.
The rezoning proposal goes May 11 to the city’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee, which will make recommendations to council on whether to approve the plan. A public hearing will follow.
Jennings, for one, will be there.
“I just hope that we get to say something when it goes to Langford,” he said.
“My question is, with the amount of stuff we’ve got going on, does Langford really need 21 townhouses on the back of another subdivision, beside the highway where there isn’t enough room for it?”