Monday, October 18, 2021

Why does Langley City look the way it does? Why was that project approved? Is there a plan?

It may seem that city plans, public projects such as road construction, and private development happen uncoordinated and haphazardly. This is not the case. A series of interconnected policies at the provincial, regional, and local levels guide Langley City Council and staff's actions. I explain more in this video.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Willowbrook Shopping Centre – A Tale of Two Cities

Willowbrook Shopping Centre

One of the quirky things from an urban planning perspective in Langley is the Willowbrook Shopping Centre, which is about three-quarters in the Township of Langley and one-quarter in Langley City. Last weekend, I was looking at the renovation plan for the north side of the mall, which reminded me of this fact. The following map shows the municipal border within the mall.

Site plan of Willowbrook Shopping Centre, including pedestrian circulation and municipal border. Select image to enlarge.

Half of some shops are in the Township and half in the City, including The Bay. It would be interesting if there were “Welcome to Langley City” signs within the mall itself.

What I find interesting is the design of the parking lot. There is no protected pedestrian walking area in the parking lot in the Township while there is in the parking lot within Langley City. It shows one of the subtle but important differences in development guidelines between the Township and the City.

With Langley City’s new proposed Official Community Plan, creating safe pedestrian spaces in parking lots will be further enhanced. As per the proposed Official Community Plan, “clearly defined and well lit pedestrian connections shall be provided between site functions (buildings, parking, loading, pedestrian spaces) and to connection points outside the site (e.g. sidewalks and bus stops).”

For surface parking lots, they “should be broken up into smaller parking areas with dedicated pedestrian pathways buffered by significant landscaping for the safe movement of pedestrians to and from on-site destinations and public sidewalks. A minimum of one tree is required for every six parking spaces.”

While the new Official Community Plan places greater emphasis on walking, cycling, and transit than in the past, Langely City has a history of creating safer pedestrian spaces.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

October 4 Council Notes: Virtual Meetings and New Bylaw Violation Ticket Process

One of the many things that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that you don’t need to meet in person to have a productive council or committee meeting. The province gave local governments the ability to hold “electronic meetings,” for example, via Zoom, permanently. Local governments do need to update their Council Procedure Bylaw to unlock this feature.

I like meeting remotely in most cases. You don’t need to go to a council chamber for most things. Meeting in real life is required for workshops and planning sessions when you need to brainstorm and vision with others.

For members of the public, more people can attend public hearings and other council meetings. For example, people don’t need to find childcare to participate in a long council meeting. We asked members of the Advisory Design Panel if they wanted their committee meetings held in-person or virtually. 100% of the committee wanted to continue meeting virtually.

Given the strong support for virtual meetings, Council gave first, second, and third reading to an amended Council Procedure Bylaw, which will allow meetings to be held entirely virtually, hybrid in-person and virtually, or fully in person. The amended bylaw also contains other housekeeping items.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to a series of bylaws that enable a new adjudication process for people who violate City bylaws. The new process will allow people to dispute a bylaw violation notice up to 14 days after being issued a violation notice. The process ends with an independent adjudicator. Today, people would have to go through a complex process that culminates in the court system. The City will maintain the “Municipal Ticket Information” process for serious bylaw violations and use the new adjudication process for matters like parking tickets.

Langley City Council gave final reading to the amended Watercourse Protection Bylaw to adjust the allowable pH levels for water discharged into a watercourse to aligned with the Metro Vancouver Regional District drinking water standard of 6.5 to 9.0.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

New Design Criteria Manual: More Street Trees, Adapting to Climate Change, and Safer Streets

Last Monday, Council gave third reading to a proposed new Subdivision and Development Bylaw. As part of updating the bylaw, City Staff also updated the Design Criteria Manual for our community.

The bylaw set the base requirements for all civil works on public and private lands in Langley City, including lot grading, roads, waterworks, rainwater management, sewer, street lighting, traffic control, landscaping, and street trees.

With climate change occurring, communities must adapt.

Langley City’s proposed new Subdivision and Development Bylaw and Design Criteria Manual address the realities of climate change. The new design guide improves walking and cycling design standards. The new design guide also requires improved on-site rainwater management, focusing on letting rainwater recharge underground aquifers. Some of the new requirements include permeable paving material on private property.

To treat water runoff from roadways, the City will require bioswales, especially in the southern sections of Langley City.

An example of a bioswale. This one is in Brydon Park. Select image to enlarge.

The City will require all rainwater management systems to handle 100-year storm events. This requirement is one of the strictest in Metro Vancouver.

The City will also require street trees everywhere, and staff have updated the City’s standard road cross-sections to reflect this. Street trees will play a critical role in combating the heat island effect by increasing the tree canopy.

A typical road cross-section that includes street trees. Select image to enlarge.

I posted about the Subdivision and Development Bylaw in the summer when Council gave first and second reading to it. After first and second readings, staff sought public feedback on the proposed bylaw and manual. City staff received 16 suggested changes to the bylaw and design manual, and moved forward with 12 suggested changes.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading to amend the Highway and Traffic Regulation, Municipal Ticket Information System, and Fees and Charges bylaws to incorporate changes resulting from the new Subdivision and Development Bylaw.