Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Standardized prototype design and ugly communities

This morning, I was reviewing last week’s Township of Langley Evening Council Meeting Agenda. I saw that there was an application to redevelop the exterior of the A&W restaurant on 88th Avenue and 204th Street in Walnut Grove. The new design for that restaurant is called a standardized prototype design. It does not take into account the character of a neighbourhood and if you look at any new A&W restaurant being building or redeveloped (in municipalities that don’t have form-based design guidelines), they will all look the same. And not to pick on A&W, but the design certainly is a throw-back to the tacky, ugly highway strip malls of the mid-twenty century.

Proposed A&W Drive-Thru redevelopment in Walnut Grove

Chain stores and gas stations usually have standardized prototype designs that pay no attention to local community character. In the 1990’s, the City of Surrey got sick of these standardized prototypes and actually updated their Official Community Plan (OCP) to ban standardized prototype gas station. There is a whole section in the OCP on how to design a gas station to better fit into the character of their community.

The Township of Langley official community plan even talks about how each of its “individual communities should have distinctive characters and identities.” Of course, it also talks about building walkable communities and how “buildings [should] be oriented to the street, to encourage walking, neighbourhood interaction and monitoring.” For the most part, Township Council spends a good amount of time making sure that most new residential development conform to the spirit of the official community plan. I also know that Fort Langley gets the eagle eyes of Council when it comes to ensuring that new development conforms to that community's distinctive character. One of my biggest complaints about the Township is that Council seems to allow poorer-quality, auto-oriented commercial development in other parts of the municipality.

Even while the OCP talks about building pedestrian-friendly commercial centres that speaks to a community’s character, auto-oriented strips malls, power centers and big-box stores (like along 64th Avenue) still get approved in the Township. The OCP says that “commercial development [should] occurs at an appropriate scale and encourages pedestrian oriented shopping” even while many new commercial areas of the Township look like any-highway in anywhere North America. Why is that the case? Is Walnut Grove’s character tacky 1960’s strip mall? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to A&W (I eat there from time-to-time) or even larger format retail, but I believe that the Township can and should require higher quality, more pedestrian-friendly designs that fits better into the community. Council really should look into restricting standardized prototype designs like Surrey does.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Langley All Candidates Debate this Wednesday

This coming Wednesday, South Fraser OnTrax along with South Fraser CARP will be hosting an all candidate debate for both Langley ridings. The debate is open to all members of the public to attend and will be moderated by a media panel including Frank Bucholtz, who is the Langley Times Newspaper Editor & Surrey North Delta Leader columnist; Bob Groeneveld, who is the Langley Advance & Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times Newspaper Editor; and Mark Forsythe, who is the CBC Radio Anchor for B.C. Almanac, Publisher of THE FORT newspaper and columnist.

Wednesday, May 1st
Doors Open at 6:00PM
4th floor Presentation Theatre
Langley Township Municipal building
20338 65 Avenue

We will be live streaming the debate for those who will not be able to attend, and will also be accepting questions for the candidates via Twitter with the hashtag #langleydebate before and for the duration of the debate. You can also send your questions to southfrasercarp@gmail.com before the debate for the media panel to consider asking the candidate.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

BC NDP and Liberals on transit funding

Both the BC NDP and BC Liberals have now released their election platforms, so I thought it would be a good time to see what each of them has to say about transit funding in Metro Vancouver. As you may be aware, TransLink needs more revenue to build and operate a much needed, expanded transit system in the region which would include rapid transit in the South of Fraser and along the UBC corridor. An expanded transit system would cost billions of dollars to build and a hundred million dollars or so annually to operate. To pay for expanding transit service, new local funding sources will need to be approved by the province, as well as higher user fees, and a commitment from the provincial and federal government to pay their fair share of transit costs.

The BC Liberals in their platform state that they would “work with the Metro Vancouver Mayor’s Council and TransLink to identify possible sources of funding for transit improvements. Any new revenue sources would then be subject to a referendum to be held at the same time as the municipal elections in November 2014.” Now depending on if you believe Premier Christy Clark, who says that there will be a status quo option on the referendum which would essential kill transit expansion in the region, or Transportation Minister Mary Polak, who indicated that a status quo option would not be on the referendum (the question would be about which new funding source to pick), we will either have a full funding transit system that can grow to meet the needs of our region, or we may have a transit system that can’t keep up with demand and will results in a poorer quality of living and lower economic potential for people who live in Metro Vancouver. I do find it a bit odd that the BC Liberals want to hold a referendum on transit funding, but not on highway funding which is also in their platform. It seems to be a double standard, and possibly a way to abdicate responsible for transit in Metro Vancouver.

The BC NDP in their platform state that they would “invest a portion of carbon tax revenues to enhance and expand transit service and options, build and rehabilitate green infrastructure, and support climate solutions in communities across BC.” The BC NDP would spend $30 million in 2013/14, $40 million in 2014/15, and $50 million in 2015/16 to pay for transit, and green projects and retrofits above what is currently in the provincial budget from carbon tax revenue. It is good news that the BC NDP will invest more on fighting climate change, but the funding level is nowhere near what is needed to expand transit in Metro Vancouver, let alone all of British Columbia. While it looks like the BC NDP are willing to pay for the province’s share of transit expansion, they have been silent on if they will allow the region to choose a funding source to pay for its share of transit costs. Carbon tax alone will not allow the expansion of transit services in Metro Vancouver.

At the end of the day, it is good to see that both major provincial parties are talking about transit funding. I hope that this decade will be the decade when we will finally have a fully funded transit system that can meet the needs of the whole region, and it will be interesting to see what happens after the election.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fort Langley: Reid Block

At the corner of Mavis Street and Church Street in Fort Langley, a new 2-storey building is being proposed called the Reid Block. The current 1923 building on the site will be removed/demolished to make way for this new building. While the current building isn’t anything to write home about, as part of the proposed redevelopment, the Township has requested the incorporation of salvage quality materials from the current building into the proposed new building, as well as historical interpretation signage.

Renders of proposed Reid Block building. Click image to enlarge.

The proposed 2-storey building will have 3,236 square feet of ground floor commercial space and 4 apartments on the second floor. The project’s proponent is requesting a variance to the 9 meter height limit in Fort Langley to 9.94 meters. This will allow for higher ceilings on the ground floor. Township staff seem to be supportive of this variance. Between this project and the Coulter Berry project (which also received a variance in height), I have to wonder if the current 9 meter height limit is too low for the village core of Fort Langley.

Site plan for Reid Block building. Click image to enlarge.

The Reid Building's proponent is also requesting a variance to allow the building to cover 64.4% of the site instead of 60% which is the maximum permitted under the current zoning. This variance also seems to have the support of Township staff.

While the building’s architecture is decent enough, I wonder about the overall heritage guidelines in Fort Langley. When I look at many of the older commercial building in Fort Langley, I seem mostly typical mid-twentieth century boxes. While some of them are gussied up with turn-of-the-twentieth-century fa├žades, they are being architectural frauds. Even the newer buildings in Fort Langley are designed to have that turn-of-the-century feel. While I feel that many of the new and proposed buildings look good, I have to wonder what heritage is truly being protected by the Fort Langley design guidelines.

The one thing that I do have a minor concern with is the proposed Reid Block’s parking lot. It extents to Mavis Street which will interrupt the street-front and pedestrian realm, one of the most important elements that gives Fort Langley that special village feeling. Interestingly enough, I believe that the height limits imposed in the commercial core of Fort Langley actually hold back the potential of Fort Langley. The public realm will be dotted with surface parking lots under the current guidelines, and from what I understand, it doesn’t make financial sense to build two-storey buildings with underground parking.

Anyway, you can find more information about the proposed building by look at the April 22nd Township of Langley Evening Council Agenda Package starting at page 103.

Update: The proposed building is actually 3-storeys as it will have third floor patios, and what appears to be a small section that is three-storey fronting Mavis Street.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

City of Langley Capital Budget Update

In January, I posted about the City of Langley’s proposed capital budget for 2013. At last night’s council meeting, council was presented with some proposed amendments to the 2013 capital budget. I want to review some of those amendments.

The first change in the capital budget plan is to increase funding for the McBurney Lane Revitalization Project. The lowest tender for the project was $191,000 higher than the City’s original budget which was $771,500 for the project. The City worked with the landscape architect and contractor to scale back the project, but in the end $134,162 extra will be needed. $89,162 is proposed to come from casino proceeds, and the remaining funds will come from a project which would have seen the replacement of some of the benches in Downtown Langley this year. In addition, the City proposes to install $31,000 worth of video surveillance equipment in McBurney Lane with funding coming from casino proceeds. I’ve been following this project for some time, and it is good to see that the City is committed to revitalizing this public space.

The next project that I’ve been following is the City’s Way Finding Strategy. The City was originally going to spread the project over several year, but has now decided to complete all signage work in 2013. The total cost of the installation of way finding signage for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists will be $236,000, and is proposed to be funded from the City’s Community Amenity Fund which developers contribute to when building new projects. The way find strategy, which was adopted in 2011, will cost about $600,000 if fully implemented.

Finally, now that the City has two electric vehicles charging stations, its looks like they want to purchase two electric vehicles for $60,000 to “model environmental sustainability” to the community.

More details on the remaining amendments to the 2013 capital budget can be seen starting on page 135 of last night’s council meeting agenda.

Monday, April 22, 2013

City of Langley Development Update

Looking over tonight’s City of Langley council agenda, there are two projects that peaked my interest. The first project is the 15-storey Charleston Place building which is proposed for the corner of Industrial Avenue and 203rd Street. I’ve posted an update about this project earlier this month. The project will contain 29 high-end residential units, and 71,300 square feet of commercial floor space.

At tonight’s meeting, council will have the opportunity to approve the rezoning of the property for this project from "C2 Service Commercial" to "C1 Downtown" which is in line with the official community plan. At the same time, council is likely to approve the development permit for this project tonight.

Site plan of proposed 201st Street apartment project. Click image to enlarge.

The next project of interest is a proposed 5-storey, 90 unit apartment building around 53 B Avenue and 201st Street. There are two things that stand out about this project. The project will be the first 5-storey wood frame building in the City of Langley (In 2009, the Province updated the building code to allow up to 6-storey wood frame buildings.) The other interesting thing about this project is that it is sited on what essentially is an island surrounded by local roads. It’s not too often that every edge of a building is a corner lot. With that in mind, it is interesting that the developer chose to make one of the corners of the proposed apartment a parking lot.

South elevation of proposed 201st Street apartment project. Click image to enlarge.

The developer of this proposed project also proactively completed a CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) report. The author of the CPTED report noted, in the neighbourhood of the project, people of all ages where seen walking on the sidewalks. According to the author, this means that people feel safe, a sense of ownership in the neighbourhood, and a "willingness to defend it from unwanted behavior.” The author also noted that there is very little graffiti which furthered the impression of a safe community. While the author noted that many of the new multi-family buildings were in a state of good repair, he also noted that there were a number of single-family houses either boarded up or in a state of disrepair. This is likely due to the land-owners waiting to sell for redevelopment. Overall, the author says that the proposed apartment project follows the principals of CPTED and will discourage crime and unwelcome behaviour in the neighbourhood. The whole CPTED report is available in tonight's council meeting agenda package.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

TransLink Road Network and Bridge Funding

All this week, I’ve been looking at statistics from TransLink’s 2012 Year-End Financial and Performance Report, and the most recent Metro Vancouver transit ridership statistics from the American Public Transit Association. The last thing I want to briefly look at in today's post is road funding.

In 2012, TransLink collected $38.9 million in tolls from the Golden Ears Bridge, $335.3 million from fuel tax, and $53.7 million from parking rights tax. That is a total of $427.9 million that TransLink collects directly from the operation of motor vehicles.

At the same time TransLink spent $216.8 million on roads. One of the largest expenses is the Golden Ear Bridge which cost TransLink $78 million in 2012. Similar to transit, only about 50% of that bridges costs are recovered by direct user fees. The rest of the road expenses were for maintaining other TransLink bridges like the Knight Street Bridge and Pattullo Bridge, and contributions to help maintain the Major Road Network.

I know that some people believe that the TransLink fuel tax is nothing more than a tax grab from motorist, but the reality is that for every 17 cents that TransLink collects from fuel tax about 10 cents get spent directly on roads and 7 cents goes to pay for transit services. If you consider that in the much smaller Victoria region, they pay 3.5 cent per litre in fuel tax for transit and have less service, TransLink’s fuel tax isn’t too crazy and that doesn’t even consider the benefits that transit brings such as getting people out of congestion.

One final item.

As you may know, TransLink’s next big road project will be the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge. I don’t know where TransLink will get the money to pay for the project (hopefully not from money that could be used to improve transit service,) but they have launched a website about the project jointly with New Westminster and Surrey. You can sign up on the website to receive updates and get invitations to consultation meetings. It should be interesting to see how this joint process goes because New Westminster does not want to see any capacity expansion on the bridge while TransLink and Surrey want more lanes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Graph of revenue collected by TransLink: 2007 to 2012

With the recent release of TransLink’s 2012 Year-End Financial and Performance Report, I thought I’d create a graph that looks at the total revenue TransLink collects from residents in Metro Vancouver to pay for roads and transit services.

Graph of TransLink Revenue from 2007 to 2012

The graph shows the relative percentage that each revenue source contributes to the overall revenue TransLink collects from Metro Vancouverites. It also shows the absolute dollar amount collected (in millions) to pay for transportation services. I’ll let the graph speak for itself, but I did want to point out a few things.

In both relative and absolute terms, the revenue collected from transit fares and tolls are going up. The other thing that I’ve noticed is that taxation from fuel and parking are on the decline. The major increase in parking tax in 2010 was the result of TransLink raising the tax to the maximum legal level. Since then, the revenue collected has been declining. TransLink increased fuel tax to 15 cent per litre in 2010 and to the maximum legal level of 17 cents per litre in 2012. In relative term, fuel tax revenue is slowly becoming a smaller part of TransLink's revenue pie. It will also become smaller in absolute terms as well. People are driving less in Metro Vancouver and this is a trend that is seen in other parts of North America as well. The irony is that under the current funding model as people drive less and uses transit more, TransLink will have less revenue while needing to provide more service. Linking transit funding to vehicle usage is not a very smart idea.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Transit Spending and Ridership

TransLink recently released their 2012 Year-End Financial and Performance Report. As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about ridership, I thought it would be interesting to do some graphs on transit expenses and ridership. Though it is not surprising, increasing transit spending also increases transit ridership.

Graph of transit expenses and ridership. Click image to enlarge.

The interesting thing though is that there is not a linear correlation between ridership growth and spending on transit. Though I don’t have too much data to go off of, it looks like you need to increase spending on transit by 1.5% for every 1% increase in ridership.

Graph of percentage increase in transit expense and ridership. Click image to enlarge

On the topic of ridership, I should point out that ridership is based on unlinked trips. So for example, my daily commute of using the 502, SkyTrain, and 84 could be counted as 6 trips a day. While it is great to see ridership increase, another statistic that matters is the increase in transit mode share (or the percentage of total trips in the region that use transit.) Mode share information is only calculated every four year in Metro Vancouver, but the good news is that transit mode share is increasing as well.

Monday, April 15, 2013

TransLink Ridership Stats

Recently, the American Public Transportation Association released 2012 fourth-quarter and year-end ridership statistics for participating transit agencies which includes TransLink.

TransLink saw annual ridership increase 2.87% in 2008, 3.53% in 2009, and 11.12% in 2010 (thanks in part to the Olympics and the introduction of the Canada Line.) In 2011, TransLink still saw annual ridership increase by 1.89% which means that people who took transit during the Olympic decided to continue to take transit after the games.

In 2011, there was serious talk between the Province and the region about how to increase TransLink’s revenue in order to provide a much needed increase to transit services in the region. This broken down in 2012 and around this time last year, the TransLink Commission denied TransLink’s proposed increase to transit fares and the Province denied TransLink the ability to use new sources of taxation revenue. TransLink was subjected to two performance audit instead. The result was an “optimization” of transit service; cutting service from one area to increase service in another. Even with the service “optimization”, TransLink still saw a 1.95% increase in transit ridership. The largest increase in ridership, at 6.36%, was on Vancouver’s trolley bus network. About 27% of all bus ridership in the region is from the Vancouver trolley bus network.

The only conventional transit service to see a decline in transit ridership was on the SeaBus. In 2011, there was a 6.73% decrease in ridership and in 2012 there was a further 3.19% decrease. I have to wonder why ridership is decreasing on the SeaBus.

While TransLink’s ridership still increased in 2012, 2013 will be the year when TransLink will be implementing the largest “optimization” to its services and I have to wondering if ridership will continue to increase. While 2% growth in ridership is good, in order to actually shift mode share toward transit in the region, a higher annual growth in ridership will be needed. This will only happen once TransLink has the funding to actually add new service in the region.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Upcoming Event: Election Debate Media Power Panel

South Fraser CARP and South Fraser OnTrax are delighted to jointly host the first ever Media Power Panel election candidate debate on May 1st for all Langley Township & Langley City candidates prior to the Provincial Election.

The Media Power Panel will develop and ask the questions as well as receive and ask audience and live twitter questions from the public. The debate organizing committee is looking forward to also live streaming the debate over the internet for the first time ever in Langley.

Provincial Langley Election Candidates Debate
Wednesday, May 1st
Doors Open at 6:00PM
4th floor Presentation Theatre
Langley Township Municipal building
20338 65 Avenue

The debate will commence at 7 PM and will be preceded by a foyer meet & greet period between 6 PM and 7 PM.

This non-partisan debate is open to the public and is the first ever Langley debate that will include candidates from both the Langley Provincial ridings at the same time. It is also the first debate to be conducted entirely by a local media panel. The election candidates will be questioned by a three member Media Power Panel.

The Media Power Panel consists of three of Langley’s most prominent media leaders:
-Frank Bucholtz, who is the Langley Times Newspaper Editor & Surrey North Delta Leader columnist,
-Bob Groeneveld, who is the Langley Advance & Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times Newspaper Editor,
-Mark Forsythe, who is the CBC Radio Anchor for B.C. Almanac, Publisher of THE FORT newspaper and columnist.

For more information please contact the debate organizing committee representative, Bob Richter at 604-856-9788.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Carvolth Neighbourhood Update

Earlier last week, I posted about an office development in Carvolth and how I was looking forward to seeing an updated plan for the area come forward to council. The original plan for the area was for auto-oriented office parks. On Monday night, Township Council considered the 1st and 2nd reading of an update to the Carvolth Neighbourhood Plan.

Carvolth areas.

The updated plan splits Carvolth into three distinct areas: a transit village east of 200th Street which will include a high street, live/work units, and a mixed of housing types that will be focused around walkability and transit; a Gateway node around the 200th Street interchange and corridor along 200th Street that is intended for high density, transit-oriented office development; and finally an area west of 200th Street which will be business-as-usual office parks with the exception of what the Township calls an “Outlet Distribution Centre” which is defined as:

An outlet distribution centre is defined as a regionally serving, upscale, destination/specialty mixed use, multi-tenant development, with a central pedestrian concourse linking retail, services, restaurants and possibly office and entertainment uses, but excludes grocery stores, conventional enclosed malls and large format ("big box") commercial establishments.
Carvolth propose land-use plan. Click image to enlarge.

Overall the plan caps out retail development at 10,764 square feet per unit with the exception of “one store up to 3,000 m2 (32,293 f2) in each quadrant” of the land around the 200th Street interchange, plus a 32,293 square foot store integrated with a high-density office development near the east-bound Highway 1 off-ramp, and a 53,821 grocery store that must also integrate with a high-density office development along 200th Street. A grocery store up to 37,675 square feet will also be allowed along the 86th Avenue High Street. I believe the intent is to limit big-box, auto-oriented development.

There will be a requirement to provide 1/3 of parking in a structure or underground which is a good start in the office/mixed-use areas, though I believe that number should be higher to promote a more pedestrian-friendly public realm. For the high street, it is expected that most parking be underground. The Township will also be implementing a minimum height requirement of three storeys in office/mixed-use areas.

One of the features that I look forward to seeing built is the multi-use greenway (between 202nd Street and 204th Street) that will connect the residential area of Carvolth with the high street/transit exchange. The greenway will also include a park in the middle, and the whole corridor will be motor-vehicle free.

Proposed Carvolth greenway. Click image to enlarge.

Overall I’m very impressed with this plan and it is great to see that the Township many now have a plan to build a new pedestrian and transit-oriented community. My only reservation is with planned office park area to the west of 200th Street which seem to me as wasted opportunity to do something more innovative with “employment lands”. I am curious to see if/when an “outlet distribution centre” is proposed for that area and what it will look like.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Overview of 2013 Community Grant in Langley

Every year both the City and Township of Langley give grants to non-profit societies for projects and events that have a hopefully positive impact in the community. In 2013, the Township of Langley plans to give out $353,750 worth of grants (see page 68), and the City of Langley gave out grants totalling $150,000.00.

In the City of Langley, the largest recipient of a community grant was the Good Times Cruise-In with $17,176 of in-kind services donated from the City. The largest recipients of cash donations from the City of Langley was the Backlock Fine Arts Elementary School PAC, Boys & Girls Club of South Coast BC, and Special Olympics of BC which each received $10,000. While the Township of Langley list what each organization plans to do with their grant, I could not find this information on the City of Langley’s website. It would be good to have this information online as it would not only provide needed transparency, but also allow people to see how the grants could improve the community.

While the City of Langley only has one grant program, the Township of Langley has 7 grant programs. The first grant program is for community hall capital improvement projects. The Township plans to give $69,600 for community hall capital projects in 2013.

The Township of Langley also has two community grant programs that top out at $2,500 per recipient: the general grant program which is similar to the City’s grant program, and a dry grad grant program. The Township also has a larger grant program for major festivals which this year will include the Aldergrove Fair Days, the Fort Langley Cranberry Festival, Langley’s Canada Day Celebration, and the Langley International Festival.

The Township of Langley will be providing $16,500 to the Aldergrove, Brookswood, and Fort Langley Business Improvement Associations to purchase, install, and maintain the banner that you see on light standards and utility poles in those community's commercial areas.

As part of the overall grant program, the Township of Langley also plans to give out $17,000 worth of scholarships in 2013.

The final grant program in the Township is called “Nothing without Effort” which is a matching grant that community resident organizations and associations can apply for to implement small community-based projects, activities and celebration in partnership with the Township of Langley. From what I can find, this $35,000 grant program has not funded a single project since it was starting in 2011. While this grant is a great idea on paper, I wonder if this money would be better used in the other Township of Langley grant programs.

The Township of Langley has grant criteria that all organization must pass to be eligible to receive funding. The only exception that council made in the 2013 grant cycle was for the Critter Care Wildlife Society which will receive $7,500 to help fund the installation of a new 400 amp power service.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Medical Marihuana in Langley

It would be fair to say that the City of Langley's council is not a fan of medicinal marihuana cultivation or distribution in its municipal boundaries. Back in 2011, a marihuana dispensary was opened in a live/work building along Fraser Highway in Downtown Langley which caused quite a stir. It resulted in Randy Caine, the operator of the dispensary, running for the mayors chair in the City during the last municipal election. As a result of the dispensary, the City explicitly banned all things related to marihuana in a 2012 zoning bylaw update. The only thing still permitted after the update was for those with a federal “personal use” licence to grow marihuana in their own home, or a person with a federal “designated person” licence to grow in their own home. As the federal government has recently overhauled medical marihuana regulations, people will soon only be able to legally get medical marihuana from a licensed commercial growers. The new federal rules also require that medical marihuana be obtained through direct secure delivery from the growers. Apparently store-front dispensaries will not be allowed.

As a result, the City of Langley will be looking at an amendment to the zoning bylaw tonight that will ban “the use of any premises for the cultivation, growing, production, packaging, storage, distribution, dispensing, trading or selling of cannabis (marihuana).” There will be no exceptions like under the current zoning bylaw. If passed, the new zoning bylaw will come into force in September 2013.

Interestingly enough, the City believes that the Agricultural Land Reserve is the perfect place for a commercial grow op. Since marihuana is a crop, it might be protected under BC’s agricultural regulation which means that the Township might be home to commercial-scale marihuana production whether that municipality wants it or not. According to the City of Langley:

Staff consider that this type of commercial use is more compatible within an agricultural land use designated area, that will cause the least amount of negative impact, and where greenhouse production supports capital intensive investments specifically designed to create a controlled environment conducive to predictable plant growth. Furthermore, since marihuana is a crop, it is permitted within the Agricultural Land Reserve, and is recognized as a farm use.

So while the City of Langley plans to ban anything related to marihuana, will the Township’s be getting a new cash crop?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Township of Langley Cycling Update

Last night, I attended the third annual Greater Langley Cycling Coalition’s stakeholders meeting. This is a chance for all organizations in Langley that have an interest in cycling and cycling infrastructure to get together and share what they are up to. The Township of Langley’s transportation department was at last night’s meeting and shared the progress they are making on cycling infrastructure improvements in that community. The Township provided an overview of the projects completed in 2012, and the projects they plan to work on in 2013. I’d like to share some of the highlights.

2012
-Completed 224 Street Shoulder Widening
-Completed 48 Avenue and 222 Street Bike Lanes
-Received funding for Allard Crescent Shoulder Bikeway

2013
-Complete 200 Street Bike Lanes (72 Avenue to 86 Avenue)
-Complete Fraser Highway Bike Lanes (228 Street to 264 Street)
-Complete 96 Avenue Shoulder Bikeway (204 Street to Glover Road)
-Complete 40 Avenue Shoulder Bikeway (200 Street to 240 Street)
-Complete Glover Road Shoulder Bikeway (Highway 10 to Mavis Avenue)
-Complete 48 Avenue Cycling Project (210 Street to 222 Street)
-Complete a 5 year cycling infrastructure funding plan with an open house for the plan scheduled in June 2013

As you can see, 2013 will be a busy year for cycling projects in the Township. Right now the Township of Langley sets aside about $160,000 for cycling infrastructure improvements in the community. This is over and above the money spent on building shared off-street trails and money spent on incorporating cycling infrastructure into major road capital projects. The Township of Langley is working on developing a 5 year cycling infrastructure funding plan, and part of that plan will also be to ask Township council to double their annual investment in cycling infrastructure. This is important because the Township relies on grants from TransLink, the provincial and federal governments, to build cycling infrastructure. Most of these funding programs are fund-matched. So every municipal dollar spent on cycling infrastructure could actually translate into two dollars of infrastructure. The proposed increase in municipal funding for cycling in the Township is a positive sign, and should be a wake-up call for the City of Langley, which spends $0 annually on cycling-only projects (though they do build cycling infrastructure into major road capital projects.) I’m pretty excited about the future of cycling in the Township of Langley.

One last general observation about cycling infrastructure in the Township of Langley, is the plan to build an extensive network of off-street, shared-use trails and on-street bike lanes in the urban parts of the community, and provide well-signed, wide shoulders for cyclists in the rural parts of the community. I think the most exciting part of the plan will be the build-out of the off-street network as research shows this is how to attract people to cycling.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Charleston Place Update

Rendering of Charleston Place

Last year, I posted about Charleston Place, a 15-storey, mixed-use building that has been approved for construction at the corner of 203rd Street & Industrial Avenue in the City of Langley. Since the project was approved by the City last year, I’ve chatted with many people in the community who have questioned if this sort of building makes financial sense in the City of Langley.

Because this will be the tallest building in either Langley, it will use concrete construction which costs more than wood-frame construction. Some developers I’ve talked to don’t believe the numbers make sense for this project, and wonder if the Charleston Place backers will be able to get the price per unit needed to make a profit on the building. Langley City is a great community and is also one of the few affordable places left in Metro Vancouver.

Either way, I’m excited about a new mixed-use building coming to Langley. I’ve noticed that a sales office is opening up near the project and that a website has been launched. If you check out the website, they are marketing the leasing of the five ground-floor retail units and the first three floors of office space. In total, there will be six floors of office space. It looks like they haven’t started the marketing for what will likely be premium-priced residential units on the top floors of the building.

I’ll be following this project closely and will be curious when it breaks ground. The next step will be the demolition of the existing building on the property which was a night club.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tired of transit bashing

Last night I was at a friend’s birthday dinner and funny enough, the topic of TransLink came up at the table. It’s funny because I wasn’t the one to bring up the topic of transit in our region. One of the people at the dinner takes the West Coast Express into work from Langley and was talking about how she loves the service. Not surprisingly, she wanted to have more West Coast Express service and didn't understand why there wasn't more service. I had to speak up and say that more service costs more money, and that the real question we should be asking is how as a region can we pay for the transit service that we clearly need.

Another person at the table blamed TransLink for being bloated as the reason why we don't have better service. It’s interesting that he had that opinion because audit after audit of TransLink shows that it is a well-managed organization, but of course people don’t hear that.

I was talking to another person last week about TransLink. He told me that one of the problems is that there are local politicians that still talk about how TransLink is a poorly run organization, even though they know the fact speak differently. These politicians do a huge disservice to the region because they don’t bring any meaningful discussion around how to actually improve transit service.

Another challenge is that there are certain media outlets that publish and produce anti-transit opinion pieces that have little to do with fact, and more to do with an ideological opposition to transit. I guess they are hoping that if you tell a lie enough, it will become truth.

All this to say is that I’m not surprised that, even though the facts say that TransLink is a well-run origination, some people still believe it is wasteful.

It also still amazes me that even though some in the media and some local politicians have a field day bashing transit at every possibility, the vast majority of people in our region support improving transit, and paying for transit improvements with a combination of new taxes and users fees. That should speak volumes to the importance of public transit in Metro Vancouver.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Office Construction in Carvolth

This weekend, I was at the Starbucks near 86th Avenue and 200th Street, and noticed construction directly to the east of me. A four-storey and six-storey office building are being constructed as part of the Langley 200 Business Centre which was approved back in June of 2011. Interesting enough in March of 2010, Township staff started the process of updating the neighbourhood plan for the area. The current preferred concept for the area recommends that 86th Avenue become a mixed-use commercial street in light of the new Carvolth Park and Ride.

Site Plan for Langley 200 Business Centre Building Fronting 86th Avenue and 201 Street. Click Image to Enlarge.

While these two new office buildings will provide jobs near the Carvolth transit exchange, I feel that there was a missed opportunity. Because Carvolth is still a business park, all these buildings are surrounded by surface parking. These office buildings also include underground parking which is a good thing, but it would have been better to see the building that faces 86th Avenue, front the sidewalk and greenway with no setback. This would have been a good start to creating a pedestrian-oriented street.

New 6 Storey Office Building (View from 86th Avenue)

New 6 Storey Office Building (View from 200th Street)

I hope that when the Township actually adopts the updated Carvolth plan, they will require more thought around the pedestrian realm along 86th Avenue. I’m glad that there are office buildings higher than two-storey being built near transit in Langley, but I still feel like we are clinging to the business park past.

The latest information on the Carvolth plan update is from last summer and suggests that Township staff are still working on the bylaws and documents needed to update the plan which will hopefully see the creation of an 86th Avenue mixed-use corridor.