The controversial sale of some Township-owned land in Aldergrove is on hold while municipal staff investigate complaints about multiple errors in a report that found no trees worth preserving on the site near 28 Avenue and 276 street.
Opponents of the proposed sale appeared before the first meeting of the newly elected council on Monday afternoon (Dec. 1) to argue the decision by council to approve the sale was based on an error-riddled assessment that confused the types of trees.
The speakers included arborist Celeste Paley, who said among other things, the report confused cedar trees with maple trees and alders.
She said the “discrepancies” and “misidentifications” were “worrisome.”
David Jordan, an assistant professor of geography at Trinity Western University, said the technical report on the property contained “significant and serious flaws” which means council “made a decision based on flawed evidence.”
The campaign against the sale was launched by Watchers Of Langley Forests (WOLF), which wants the site preserved as an urban forest.
“Why would you make an irreversible decision on your first day on the job?” WOLF spokesperson Kirk Robertson told the new council.
It was enough to convince a majority to order a review by staff of the technical report, a move that effectively postpones any sale of the land until the review is finished.
“We have new information here” councillor David Davis said.
Councillor Charlie Fox voted for the review, but warned canceling the land sale could put a crimp in plans to build a new rec centre and an indoor pool in Aldergrove with money raised from selling Township property.
“We [council] have said there will be no tax increase and there will be no debt [to fund the new pool and rec centre],” Fox said.
“So what’s left? Sale of assets.”
Councillor Petrina Arnason said it should not be an “either-or” proposition that requires a choice between trees and a rec centre.
Councillor Kim Richter said the money from the land sales hasn’t so far been specifically reserved for the rec centre, but goes into a general property fund.
“We’ve got to stop holding forests hostage to the Aldergrove pool,” Richter said.
The property was the former site of the Aldergrove sewage treatment plant, which operated from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s when it was decommissioned and a connection to the Abbotsford treatment plant was constructed.
The property had been cleared in the earlier part of the last century for a farm, but over the years second-growth trees had taken over the southern, unused portion of the acreage.
The southern portion of the land is also traversed by Bertrand Creek.
The property, owned by Langley Township, was never included in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
– by Dan Ferguson with files from Kurt Langmann