Thursday, December 8, 2016

December 5th, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Homelessness related issues impact City’s bottom line, and other updates

On Tuesday, I posted about a proposed townhouse project along 198th Street. Yesterday, I posted about bylaws and reports that were on last Monday’s council meeting agenda. Today will be the last post about that meeting, and I will cover the remaining items.

As everyone in Langley City is aware, there has been an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in our community. Over the summer, people were camping in the Nicomekl Floodplain park system. A BC Supreme Court ruling allows camping in parks with certain limitation. Getting people a way out of homelessness is critical. The Gateway of Hope with the help of BC Housing has increased the number of shelter spaces temporally. Of course this is not enough, and more work still needs to be done.

Homelessness related issues had an impact on the bottom line of the City as well this year. The budget for vandalism was $103,125.00 in 2016. It is projected that the City will have spent $192,600.00 on addressing vandalism this year. As a result, council approved $89,500.00 to be taken out of the Enterprise Fund to cover these additional costs. The Enterprise Fund can be used to cover unbudgeted expenses.

The Mayor noted in the meeting that the City is currently working on a protocol or bylaw that could help reduce the amount of abandoned shopping carts in our community.

Council Storteboom wanted the City of Langley to put forward the following resolution for the upcoming Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference about “Standard Remediation of Properties used as Marijuana Grow Operations and Clandestine Drug Laboratories.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) petition the government of Canada to establish a comprehensive standard of remediation for residential and commercial properties affected by the cultivation of agriculture and/or the manufacture of drugs, whether legal or illegal, to acceptable health and safety standards for reoccupation by residents and the protection of investors and underwriters.

Council approved forwarding this motion to the conference for debate.

Rick Bomhof provided an update on engineering and parks projects. Bomhof highlighted the following new items since the last update including:

  • Finishing the removal of infected trees at Hunter Park.
  • Painting “See Tracks? Think Train” signs on sidewalks at some of the rail crossings.
  • Adding water service to Penzer Park.
  • Completing a new boardwalk at Sendall Gardens.
  • Continuing to work on the 203th Street corridor. The roundabout will be finished around mid-December.
  • Installing Downtown Christmas decorations.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

December 5th, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: Water and sewer rate changes in 2017, plus housekeeping items

Yesterday, I posted about a townhouse project that is being proposed along 198th Street near 55th Avenue. Today, I will be focusing on bylaws and reports that were on the agenda at Monday night’s council meeting.

Two of the bylaws that were given first, second, and third reading addressed utility rates for 2017. Metro Vancouver is increasing the rate it charges the City of Langley for water and sewer services. Because of this increase, the City is proposing to adjust the rates it charges for water and sewer services.

For water services, the $50 flat fee remains unchanged while the consumption-based charge will increase to $1.17 per cubic meter. For the average single-family home, this will work out to about a $3.30 increase. For the average strata home, this will work out to about a $1.90 increase over what was paid in 2016.

For sewer services, the $50 flat fee remains unchanged while the usage charge will increase to $1.06 per cubic meter. The increase will also allow the City to be able to fund the replacement of aging sewer infrastructure. For the average single-family home, this will work out to a $21.12 increase. For the average strata home, this will work out to about a $12.16 increase over what was paid in 2016.

An update to the Municipal Ticking Information System bylaw was also giving first, second, and third reading. The is a housekeeping item with the biggest change being the addition of a schedule of fines from our Waterworks Regulation Bylaw.

The City of Langley recently completed an Environmentally Sensitive Areas Mapping Study. The results of the study are proposed to be incorporated into our Official Community Plan. To update the Official Community Plan, consultation with the community is required. Consultation was an important part of the process of creating the Environmentally Sensitive Areas Mapping Study, and a public hearing on updating the Official Community Plan will be schedule near the end of January. At Monday’s meeting, council approved the process to update the Official Community Plan.

The City of Langley is planning to upgrade the underground and above-ground infrastructure along a section of Douglas Crescent. While council already authorized the City to seek federal funding for this project, there was additional work which needed to be included in the project which required a re-authorization by council to seek increased federal funding. Council approved the request.

Council also approved our Director of Development Services & Economic Development to attend the APA 2017 National Planning Conference which is budgeted.

Council approved the Council Meeting schedule for 2017 which will be posted online soon.

Tomorrow, I will cover the remaining items that were on the agenda.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December 5th, 2016 Council Meeting Notes: 198th Street Corridor - New townhouse project approved, plus road safety and parking concerns heard

Last night was the penultimate City of Langley council meeting for the year. As normal, I will be putting up multiple posts about the meeting. Today, I want to focus on a townhouse project that was ultimately approved by council.

The Nicomekl Neighbourhood in the City is transitioning from an area of single-family housing to an area with apartments and townhouses. When a neighbourhood is being redeveloped, there can be growing pains.

Map of area as provide by proponent of the townhouse project. Includes current zoning. Select image to enlarge.

As I observed last night, people were supportive of the design of the townhouse project. People’s concerns were focused around the potential externalities of the new project.

Rendering of townhouse project. View form 199th Street. Select image to enlarge.

Some residents along 198th Street -between 53rd Avenue and 56th Avenue- expressed concern about the number of people driving along 198th Street, the speed of the vehicles on that street, and on-street parking in the area. These are legitimate concerns that should be addressed.

The proponent of this project held a neighbourhood open house to let people give feedback, and learn about the project. Based on that feedback, the proponent made some design changes to the townhouse project.

In some apartment buildings, large pickup trucks cannot fit into underground parking. Some of these vehicles get parked on-street as a result. The proponent of this project ensured that these larger vehicles would be able to use the provided on-site parking. Many on council, including myself, noted that we may need to review height requirements for underground parking.

To make the intersections around the project safer for all modes for travel, the proponent is adding curb bulges which is a best practice for urban streets. This will also help manage on-street parking. I hope this design can be rolled out to all intersections along 198th Street.

The proponent had a traffic engineering firm do a vehicle traffic count between November 21st and 28th. They also observed the demand for on-street parking in the area twice; once was at 4:30pm, and another was at 8:00pm last month.

They found that there was always an on-street parking spot available at least every 100 meters (one block). Parking along 198th Street is currently not managed. If there wasn’t an available parking spot every block or so, managed parking could be considered in the area. This is not the case yet.

The traffic engineering firm also found that people traveled the speed-limit for the most part along the 198th Street corridor, but didn’t slow down to 30km/h for the playground zone around Brydon Park. While not related to this project, it looks like the City may need to put in traffic calming around that playground area.

198th Street was designed to handle about 10,000 motor vehicles per day. Based on last month’s traffic count, there is an average of 4,000 vehicles per day. During peak travel periods, there is 350 vehicles per hour which is well under the 700 vehicles per hour limit where congestion would occur. That road could handle double the traffic that is on it today.

Based on the information presented at last night’s meeting, I am satisfied that the 198th Street corridor can accommodate future higher-density housing with the caveat that we work towards making safer intersections, keep an eye on on-street parking demand, and put in traffic calming where required.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Strong public support for improving walking and cycling connectivity to the proposed replacement Pattullo Bridge

Artist drawing of proposed replacement Pattullo Bridge. Select image to enlarge.

In October, I posted about some of the design options that were being considered for the replacement Pattullo Bridge. TransLink was seeking public feedback on the design at that time with a focus on cycling and walking connectivity between Surrey and New Westminster.

TransLink has recently released the results of the public consultation in which 2,233 people participated. 60% of participants, a clear majority, supported both improving cycling and walking infrastructure in Surrey and New Westminster, connecting to and along the bridge.

Around 15% of the people who provided written feedback on walking/cycling connectivity noted that they opposed these improvements because there aren’t many people walking or cycling in the area today.

Giving the state of the Pattullo Bridge and surrounding road network, it is no surprise that people only drive. Generally, when improvements are made to make cycling and walking safer and more inviting, more people will walk or cycle.

One of the interesting questions asked about New Westminster walking access was whether people would support grade-level crossings with flashing crosswalk lights, or an overpass at the Royal Avenue On-Ramp. There was clear support for the overpass, and little support for the at-grade crosswalk.

It is interesting to see that about a third of the people who provided written comments on overpasses vs. at-grade crossings, didn’t support at-grade crossings because they “interrupt traffic flow.” There are traffic lights throughout New Westminster and Surrey that interrupt traffic flow, so whether you queue near the bridge or the next light, it likely doesn’t really matter as far as increasing travel time goes.

One thing I know about walking/cycling overpasses is that people will only use them if there are no other options. If there is even the slightest chance of crossing at-grade, people will do that. I hope the design of walking and cycling access for the Pattullo Bridge takes this into account, and reduces the barriers to walking and cycling safely as much as possible.

People who participated in the public consultation process were also giving the opportunity to provide additional feedback. Of all the additional feedback received, only around 30% of people commented about their opposition to tolling.

For more information about the public feedback received, check out the full report.