In late July, at the Township of Langley council meeting, Mayor and Council passed a motion requesting planning staff bring forward a report detailing the available options for advancing development in the Smith Neighbourhood in Willoughby. The Smith Neighbourhood Plan was approved in 2017 but development has yet to begin as the plan requires the land for the joint elementary school and park site be secured prior to any development. Similarly, development cannot proceed without the necessary stormwater drainage infrastructure (detention ponds).
These prerequisites are not new for a Willoughby neighbourhood but what is making them particularly difficult to satisfy in Smith is fragmented ownership of the area’s relatively small properties and a decline in land values. The 10 acres required for the future school/park site must first be assembled and purchased by a developer or group of developers before it is sold to the school district. The reality is a developer or group of developers is not going to work to acquire those 10 acres unless they own a significant amount of developable land within the same neighbourhood plan, land that is being held back from development. Acquiring that critical mass of developable land is difficult in areas where each property has a different owner and where the value of land has declined over the past 18-24 months due to market conditions (a general market correction and an enormous increase in municipal development fees). The decline in values has resulted in developers not being able to afford to pay the prices that some property owners believe their property is worth, price expectations which are based on the record-high prices from 2017.
The lack of development in the Smith neighbourhood continues to be a topic of discussion as it contains a significant portion of 208 Street, a heavily trafficked arterial road through Willoughby that is only partially widened, causing bottle-necks. If the properties in the Smith Neighbourhood which front 208 Street were to be developed, the road would be widened. This is likely not the sole reason Mayor and Council commissioned this study but arterial roads have become such a challenge in Willoughby that on May 11th a new amenity policy was approved (read more about this here) to create funding for the proactive widening of a handful of critical arterial roads.
Check back here regularly for additional updates on the Smith Neighbourhood over the coming months.