Councillor Petrina Arnason wants a study of the watershed before a decision on the rezoning of green space in Gloucester Industrial Estates. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Fate of Gloucester green space up for debate soon in Langley Township

One councillor has been calling for a full watershed study before making the decision.

A chunk of greenspace in the middle of one of Langley’s biggest industrial areas could be rezoned and partially developed starting later this year.

The Beedie Group has applied to rezone a portion of the former golf course lands that sit in the center of the Gloucester Industrial Estates.

The planned course was never developed, and the lands are currently a mix of creeks, beaver ponds, lightly forested areas and grassland.

Township Councillor Petrina Arnason wants to see a full integrated stormwater management study done before the lands are rezoned.

The issue will be up for discussion this Monday, March 11 as the council debates the last detail of this year’s municipal budget. Arnason would like to fund a full 12- to 18-month study from reserve funds.

Typically, watersheds will get an official stormwater study when they hit a threshold of 20 per cent of the land being covered by impermeable surfaces, such as roads and buildings.

West Creek’s watershed, which includes Gloucester, is unlikely to ever hit that 20 per cent mark, Arnason said. It’s about 18 per cent covered, because outside of the industrial park, the whole area in northeast Langley is rural.

She feels it’s still worth doing, as the 20 per cent mark is an artificial threshold and parts of the watershed may still be at risk, including salmon habitat.

A full study will look at the watershed, species at risk, and drainage patterns, Arnason said.

“I want a science based decision on what should be allowable, not one where we’re guesstimating ‘Oh, a third would be okay,’” Arnason said.

She believes a watershed study would recommend keeping some or all of the existing greenspace in Gloucster for future preservation.

A rezoning process and a community plan amendment are required to change the use of the former golf course land, said Ramin Seifi, the Township’s general manager of community development.

“The Gloucester plan designates those areas as open space or golf course,” said Seifi.

He said the rezoning plan is expected to go to council for its consideration sometime in the next three months. It calls for taking out about 40 to 50 per cent of the green space for industrial use.

Saving land in West Creek is important because salmon have been returning to spawn in the creek in recent years, Arnason said. A study could help determine what needs to be preserved to keep that salmon habitat viable for the future, she believes.

Also at issue is the shrinking amount of industrial land in Metro Vancouver.

Gloucester Industrial Estates has been growing steadily for years, and much of the available land has now been developed.

Development of industrial land is typically encouraged by municipal governments, because it provides both jobs and a property tax base separate from residential property owners.

A Metro Vancouver report back in 2015 warned about declining areas for industrial development, noting that in the previous five years, a significant amount of industrial-zoned land had been developed as commercial or residential.

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