Director of the Janda Group, Sonny Janda, held three public meetings before Township of Langley councillors passed his Aldergrove Town Centre proposal unanimously at third reading on Feb. 25. Since then, he’s taken to Aldergrove to share his thoughts on the process. (Aldergrove Star files)

‘Aldergrove it got forgotten, but people are paying attention now’: Developer Sonny Janda

Janda shares plans for Bertrand Creek, traffic diversion, and $8.5M parkade

The Township of Langley council recently spent some time considering funding to acquire one of the key pieces of the Aldergrove Town Centre project – a large parkade intended to serve the whole downtown area.

That was after the council voted unanimously to carry forward the third reading of the first phase of the Janda Group’s lofty redevelopment proposal for the downtown core.

The proposal includes a high-density centre of three, six-storey buildings with condos above and commercial space on the bottom floor.

Director Sonny Janda of the Janda Group admitted “a building was approved that I did not think would get unanimous approval,” at an Aldergrove Community Association (ACA) meeting on Feb. 27.

“This is the longest project that I have ever been a part of,” Janda added.

He explained the two years he spent in talks with Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) – ensuring the project fit stream-side protection protocols near Bertrand Creek, which runs adjacent to the site and is inhabited by endangered fish species.

“In 2012, I sent one of my staff members down there to recover what looked like a bag of diapers [from the creek]. At that time I didn’t know how protected the creek was,” Janda said.

“I got fined $2,000 for cleaning up a bag of diapers on what I thought was my property,” Janda told the room.

He explained that as construction begins on the project – which is expected to be by March of 2021 – there will be some “excavation” and “big removal” of invasive species near the creek.

Trails are planned to extend from where Dollarama is now, at the back of the mall, to 272nd Street on the other side of the creek, he said. The creek area will be maintained for three years by the Janda Group after its redevelopment.

Another factor that slowed the development proposal coming before council was a tenant in the old mall who, from 2008 to 2018, did not see it fit to leave, Janda added.

The Janda Group has also added a four-storey parking structure as part of one of the blocks, a 10-storey structure, and is to give the structure back to the Township at a cost of no more than $8.5-million.

Parkade costs

Janda believes the parkade will do well to encourage developers from throughout the Lower Mainland to invest in Aldergrove, since there will be less of a need to carve out space for parking.

Councillor Eric Woodward put forward a parallel motion about the parkade’s financing at the start of the debate during a Feb. 24 council meeting.

The motion outlined that the $8.5-million parkade cost, first borrowed from the Township’s water and sewer utility funds will be repaid, with interest, from the Aldergrove Community Amenity Fund as it becomes available.

This provides an alternative to having to borrow funds externally, with a separate borrowing bylaw and longer loan term,” Woodward told the Aldergrove Star.

Woodward recognized Coun. Petrina Arnason for helping him develop the alternative funding strategy, “with not a penny coming from property taxes,” he committed.

Though in support of the centre, Coun. Bob Long made mention that the parkade is still “publicly funded,” from amenity contributions from throughout the Township.

The motion passed unanimously, committing the Township to operate and maintain the parkade at an annual cost estimated to be between $94,000 and $141,000 per year.

After being questioned by an Aldergrove resident at the ACA meeting, Janda conveyed that he hopes the Township will use the parkade to provide free parking.

“I hope they don’t charge for the stalls,” he said. “That’s really not what it was meant for.”

Though, as many have worried, the Township may see it fit to put a cost on parking, and recover funds from their initial $8.5-million investment in the structure.

In that sense, the parkade cost may not be recovered right away, Janda admitted, “it might take 10 years,” he said.

Street extension proposed

At the meeting, Janda addressed concerns about traffic on arterial Fraser Highway as it intersects with 272nd Street in downtown Aldergrove.

“We’re proposing a diversion to take any of the traffic that is intended to come to our site for the commercial or the residential,” he explained.

Coined Aldergrove Town Centre Drive, a proposed roadway will divert traffic from Fraser Highway as a new extension of 273rd Street, which will run behind the development.

A fourth and final reading is still required to finalize the council’s approval of the first phase, though the Janda Group wants to break ground on the project by March of 2021.

“Aldergrove, it got forgotten, but people are paying attention now.”

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