Thursday, October 20, 2016

Laminated Root Rot in Hunter Park requires significant tree removal

Map of City of Langley Parks in the south of the community. Hunter Park outlined. Select map to enlarge.

Hunter Park is located along 200th Street in the City of Langley. Earlier this year, City of Langley Parks staff became concerned that trees in this park were not healthy. After testing, it was determined that trees in this park have Laminated Root Rot. Here are some quick facts about the disease that was put together by the City:

Cross-section of trunk decay from Laminated Root Rot. Source: Dr R. L. James ( (Hagle et al. 2003) USDA Forest Service.
  • Laminated Root Rot is considered to be the most damaging root disease in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Root systems of infected trees are so weakened structurally that the tree may topple before visible symptoms appear in the tree crown.
  • The disease spreads through root contact between adjacent infected trees or stumps and susceptible host trees such as Douglas Fire and Western Hemlock trees.
  • The Laminated Root Rot fungus may remain viable in stumps for up to 50 years. Susceptible tree species can be infected if planted or regenerated in the area.
  • Best management practices recommend that all known diseased trees as well as uninfected susceptible trees within 15 metres of an infected tree should be removed.

In Hunter Park, the City has identified that at least 100 trees will need to be removed. Because of the nature of this infectious disease, more trees may need to be removed if it has been found to have spread outside of the bounds of Hunter Park. Also, non-wind resistant trees may need to be removed within the park.

Unfortunately Douglas Fir, Grand Fir, and Hemlocks trees will not be able to be replanted in Hunter Park for 50 years. After the tree removals are complete, and the infectious disease contained, the City will be initiating a park redevelopment plan with community involvement.

One of the things that I’ve been advocating for is a tree canopy enhancement strategy. The time seems right for this to come forward, and I will continue to advocate for this. Logging trees in City parks is something that I wouldn’t normally support, but it is critically important to get Laminated Root Rot under control in our city to save the remaining Douglas Firs and Hemlocks.

For more information, please visit the City of Langley’s website.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

October 17, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: RCMP third quarter report

Yesterday, I posted about the development matters that were addressed at Monday night’s council meeting. Today, I will be posting on the remaining items that were on the council agenda.

Ginger Sherlock, Langley Emergency Program Coordinator, gave a presentation about “The Great British Columbia Shake Out” which is a province-wide earthquake drill that will be taking place on October 20th at 10:20am. Sherlock pointed out that City of Langley staff will be participating in this drill.

Sherlock also noted that the Langley Emergency Program will be hosting a personal preparedness session on Tuesday, November 1st from 7pm to 9pm at the City of Langley Fire Hall. For more information, please email

After the presentation, Councillor Storteboom noted that there were no meetings of the Metro Vancouver Board or Climate Action Committee which is sits on, but did note that people should check out the Managing Rain on Residential Lots video that has been recently posted to the Metro Vancouver website.

Councillor Martin provided an update of the activities of the Fraser Valley Regional Library, highlighting upcoming events. An event that is interesting to me is a 3D printer demonstration which will be occurring at the City of Langley branch on Saturday, October 22nd.

The final report that council heard was from Superintendent Murray Power, OIC of the Langley RCMP detachment.

Langley City Year-Over-Year Crime Trends in 3rd quarter. Select table to enlarge.

Due to how policing is structured in BC, municipalities formal role in policing is essentially limited to just paying the bills. That being said in Langley, we have a very good relationship with the RCMP, and I believe a good line of communication.

Right now we get quarterly reports on crime statistics. While this is good, it really doesn’t give council the whole picture around policing in our community. Superintendent Power noted in his third quarter presentation on Monday that in 2017, we can expect a more fulsome report on policing in Langley City, including more detailed financial information. I’m really looking forward to seeing this improved reporting, and it is encouraging to see that the RCMP is voluntarily improving the lines of communications with local governments.

As I noted in a previous post, the largest number of calls to the RCMP were about issues resulting from homelessness.

Compared to the 5-year trend line, theft from auto is significantly up. Superintendent Power noted that people should be mindful of removing all personal items from vehicles to reduce this type of crime.

The RCMP stepped-up street checks in Langley City during the summer months with about half of all checks in Langley occurring in the City of Langley.

Business and residents break and enters year-to-date are below the 5-year trend line in the City of Langley. Year-to-date, there has been one homicide.

After the RCMP report, council gave final reading to Bylaw 3003 which is regarding permissive tax exemptions that I posted about previously.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

October 17, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Cascades Casino expansion approved as well as development variance permit

This is part one of two posts about last night’s City of Langley council meeting. This post will be about the development permit and development variance permit which council ended up approving.

Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, the owners of Cascades in the heart of Downtown Langley, had a development permit for a 23,056 sq ft expansion of their facility. The major components of the expansion include two new restaurants, expanded convention centre space which includes a new rooftop reception space, and an expansion to the gaming area. I should note that the amount of gaming equipment will not be expanding at this time.

According to Gateway Casinos & Entertainment, this project will result in about 100 new full-time jobs being created in Langley.

There are some issues with the current design of Cascades when it comes to the public realm. The facility is set back from Fraser Highway by about a block with surface parking between it and Fraser Highway. The current design of the casino also includes many blank wall. Altogether, this doesn’t create an engaging, pedestrian-friendly Fraser Highway along the frontage of Cascades.

There are several things in this development proposal that will enhance the public realm, and hopefully set the stage for future expansion. The expansion of the facility will see the replacement of blank walls as shown in the following renderings.

Cascades Casino expansion renderings. Select image to enlarge.

This is a vast improvement over the current design. Also good is that some of the surface parking fronting the facility is being replaced to accommodate this expansion. A new landscaped sidewalk will front the expanded facility.

Site and landscaping plan for Cascades Casino expansion. Select image to enlarge.

One of the remaining challenges is that even with the expansion, Cascades is still setback from Fraser Highway. Right now, there is a pedestrian connection at 56th Avenue/Fraser Highway to the west entrance of the casino. The sidewalk is narrow, has no pedestrian scale lighting, and has limited landscaping.

Eventually, I hope that Gateway Casinos & Entertainment will be able to expand their site to have one or more buildings front Fraser Highway that will create an active and engaging public realm. As an interim step, I asked the architect at the meeting if he would consider improving that 56th Avenue/Fraser Highway pedestrian connection to create a more prominent pedestrian-friendly entrance from Fraser Highway. This would enhance the public realm along Fraser Highway, encourage people walking along Fraser Highway to visit Cascades, and provide a cue for people visiting Cascades to explore Downtown Langley. I believe this would be a real win-win.

The architect supported this idea. Later during the meeting when council was voting on whether to approve this development application, I asked our Director of Development Services if we needed to amend the development permit application to include wording to ensure that this enhanced pedestrian access would be built. I was told that we didn’t, and that the City will be working with Gateway Casinos & Entertainment to make this happen.

As part of the expansion of this facility, Gateway Casinos & Entertainment will also be upgrading the streetscape along the sections of Fraser Highway and Glover Road which front their property. This will most certainly enhance the public realm.

The combination of the new expansion, streetscape improvements, and enhanced pedestrian connection between Fraser Highway and Cascades will be a welcomed addition to Downtown Langley.

An example of the scale of the new houses as part of the subdivision of 20508 46A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

As I noted earlier, council approved a development variance application for the subdivision of 20508 46A Avenue. The front width of the lot was varied from 16m as required in our RS-1 zoning to 15.4m. The proponent of this application received the support of his neighbours, and the proposed houses appeared to fit within the character of the neighbourhood which is why I supported the variance.

Tomorrow, I will post about the other items discussed at Monday night’s council meeting.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tsawwassen Mills and Tsawwassen Commons: The Best Laid Plans

Tsawwassen Mills recently opened in our region. The retail space of this mall is slightly smaller than Guildford Town Centre. Tsawwassen Mills uses more land because it is not multi-story and doesn’t have structured parking like Guildford Town Centre. It also has about 1,000 more parking spaces (6,000 in total) than Guildford Town Centre.

Tsawwassen Commons, a power centre that would feel right at home along the Langley Bypass, will be opening up just north of Tsawwassen Mills shortly.

An artist's drawing of the actual land use of the "mixed-use" area of TFN lands. Select image to enlarge.

Most of the malls in our region were developed on former agricultural land. In Langley City, it was no different. Our power centres and Willowbrook Mall were farmland at one point. When looking at projects like Tsawwassen Mills and Tsawwassen Commons, it is the rapid and massive conversion of farmland to auto-oriented retail that has caused alarm for people. Rapid urbanization of farmland was one of the reasons why the Agricultural Land Reserve was created it in the first place.

Tsawwassen First Nations (TFN) has a land-use plan. It is really interesting to see the original plan for the lands that are now the location of Tsawwassen Mills and Tsawwassen Commons.

TFN Land Use Map. Select map to enlarge.

Under the TFN plan, Tsawwassen Mills and Tsawwassen Commons are in a mixed-use area. According to the land-use plan, this area can include “hotel, retail and business park uses. A mixed use community is planned with single family, town home and apartment style housing”.

This area was to be connected to the surround agricultural lands “through a series of green fingers and blue ways that will penetrate throughout the development. A new stream will link the storm retention ponds and irrigation canals creating an attractive water feature. The streets will be tree lined and contain safe pedestrian and bicycle lanes.”

The plan always included the provision for a “a premium outlet or similar specialty retail mall adjacent to Highway 17.” On the land use plan, this is noted a “specialty retail.”

Now this land use plan likely would have taken decades to fully build out. A project like Tsawwassen Mills took less time to build, meaning it would be delivering economic benefit to the TFN almost immediately. Even in Langley City, development projects have been approved that are questionably in the spirit of our official community plan. Many people believe that having something is better than a brownfield or vacant site.

I’m not a fan of auto-orient retail, but I can certainly see why TFN made the decision they did. This is why having a regional growth strategy and the ALR is so important. It creates a tension which balances the social, economic, and environmental priorities of our region as a whole.