01/23/2014 10:27 EST | Updated 03/25/2014 05:59 EDT

Battle over proposed 'University District' in Langley

Metro Vancouver is challenging a proposal from well-known developer Peter Wall in B.C. Supreme Court that would see the construction of 13 hectares of land  near Trinity Western University. 

The project known as ‘University District’ is sparking a debate over the protection of agricultural land in a region that needs room for growth. 

Wall’s plan calls for smaller homes to be built on 67 lots that would house students and staff. 

University President Bob Kuhn says he likes the proposal because it will maintain the rural feel of his school.  He says big towers, like the ones seen at UBC and SFU, wouldn’t fit on his campus.

“We need to ensure that we have the space available to grow and that the university can continue to contribute to the greater community of the Township of Langley,” said Kuhn.  “We need to ensure the opportunities for students here on campus are not curtailed by being landlocked in a relatively limited way.  We don’t want to have to change the community by going up instead of broadening.”

Opposition challenges plan in court

Metro Vancouver has challenged the proposal in BC Supreme Court.  The region argues much of the land is part of the Agricultural Land Reserve and that dense, residential development isn’t appropriate for the site.

The Township of Langley argues it is within its rights to approve the project, and points out that the proposal has received conditional approval from the Agricultural Land Commission. Lawyers for Metro and the Township refuse to comment because the matter is before the courts.

Community and environmental groups are also anxiously awaiting the court ruling.

“It’s in the middle of the Agricultural Land Reserve and it would be a negative precedent to start having these kind of small zonings allowed throughout the ALR,” says Doug Mcfee with the Salmon River Enhancement Society, “not just in Langley, but in the rest of the Lower Mainland as well.”

McFee also feels he and others who are opposed to the development weren’t listened to by Township council.

University will work with community

Kuhn says he understands why there are differing opinions, but he maintains the university will do everything in its power to protect the environment and work with the community.

“Some people are simply opposed to any type of development at all and others are very positive about expansion and development of a certain type,” he said.  “At the end of the day it’s the values that have to drive the decision making process.  How do we properly fit within a community that has the benefit of a Trinity Western University here in a setting which wants to remain as rural as reasonably possible?”

However, Kuhn says he and the school will live with the court's decision, whatever it is.