The suburban Township of Langley backed down from selling one of two parcels of forested land following a public outcry last month, but residents say it's not enough – and they will proceed with protests until the other is spared as well.
Council initially proposed selling the two parcels of land along 84th Avenue to pay for the purchase of the old Aldergrove elementary school, which was closed in 2007. The city is planning to convert the heritage building into a library and construct a recreation centre on the remainder of the 4.2-acre site, Councillor Bob Long said.
After residents submitted a 2,000-signature petition opposing the sale, however, council relented, saying it would withdraw the western parcel, composed of three lots and 21 acres between 252nd and 254th streets, from the sale process. It's believed to be worth just under $2-million.
The eastern parcel, composed of five lots totalling 25 acres near 260th Street, remains on the market, listed above the appraised value at a minimum ranging from $599,000 to $649,000 each, Mr. Long said.
Council did not expect the ongoing uproar, he said.
"We're surprised, because when we listed the properties, we had a public outcry about those western lands, and we felt that if we took those off the market, that would make people happy," Mr. Long said. "Now they're going after the eastern lands too."
Buyers are expected to build country homes on the property, as the land is zoned for low-density residential.
"It's premature, and not fair, to assume that someone's going to buy those lands and clear-cut them, which is what we're being told by opponents," he said. "Why would you do that, if you buy a piece of land and put a beautiful home on it? I don't think you'd cut all those old trees down."
But the buyer does have the option of doing so, Mr. Long conceded.
The heavily treed land in question has been left relatively untouched since the 1930s and has some trees more than 100 years old. Area residents want both western and eastern parcels preserved as parks.
Dan Hoogwater, who grows and sells Christmas trees on his nearby property, said he isn't concerned with the sale of the land per se. But as a third party has already applied to extract 4.5 acres of fertile peat from the property between his and the township's, the removal of trees from the township's land could further increase the area's water table height, flooding his property.
"If they did that, I'm pretty sure it would kill all my trees," he said.
Mr. Hoogwater – one of many residents who plan to speak on the matter when council resumes in September – is also skeptical anyone would purchase the land only to leave it mostly untouched.
"Nobody buys a piece of property to just leave it and not do nothing with it," he said. "The real question is: How much are they going to massacre it?"