Thursday, May 13, 2021

Langley City received grants from ICBC, TransLink, and UBCM to help fund capital works projects

As I posted about Tuesday, Langley City must reconcile its budget with its actual financial results annually per provincial law. I posted about the difference in the financial plan operating budget and reserve accounts.

Today, I’ll highlight some of the changes in the capital projects plan. Capital projects are one-off initiatives such as updating the Offical Community Plan or creating new or significantly renewed tangible infrastructure such as replacing a traffic light or building a new washroom in a park.

  • Traffic Signal Upgrade - 203 St & Industrial Ave: Additional $62,500 grant from ICBC
  • Traffic Signal Upgrade - 200 St & Logan Ave: Additional $5,000 grant from ICBC
  • Traffic Signal Upgrade - 200 St & 53 Ave: Additional $2,500 grant from ICBC
  • Backup Battery Power Supplies for Traffic Signals: Additional $5,000 grant from ICBC
  • Traffic Calming: Additional $3,000 grant from ICBC
  • Douglas Crescent Renewal, 206 St to 208 St: Additional $4,000 grant from ICBC
  • Grade Crescent, 208 Street Median & 201A Street Crosswalk: Additional $24,000 grant from ICBC
  • Baldi Creek Pedestrian Bridge: $638,000 cost to be funded by developers in the area as opposed to a grant as orginally planned
  • Affordable Housing Strategy: Additional $40,000 grant from UBCM
  • Duncan Way Multiuse Path: Additional $9,500 grant from TransLink
  • Bicycle Facilities: Additional $10,450 grant from Coast Mountain Bus Company (TransLink)

These grants mean that the City can invest around $160,000 in capital funding into other projects.

City Council also approved the tax rate and tax penalty payment fees and schedule for this year. You can read more about this in a previous post.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

May 10 Council Notes: Two new mixed-use projects. Public hearing for an apartment project.

On Monday, Langley City Council issued a development permit to construct a 6-storey, 70-unit building with three ground-level live/work units and 67 rental apartments on the other floors. The apartment’s location will be at the corner of Glover Road and Eastleigh Crescent.

The apartment mix is 25 one-bedroom units, 5 one-bedroom plus den units, 36 two-bedroom units, 2 one-bedroom live/work units, 1 two-bedroom live/work unit, and one studio. The live/work units would be suitable for businesses such as accounting or personal services such as a hairstylist.

The building will have a garbage room that can accommodate large bins for garbage and recycling, all bedrooms will have fully operable windows, and the main bedrooms will accommodate a queen bed. The second bedrooms will accommodate a double/full bed. The building will also have an on-site loading zone.

View of proposed apartment from the corner of Glover Road and Eastleigh Crescent. 5724 & 5744 Glover Road. Select rendering to enlarge.

Council also gave first and second reading to two bylaws to accommodate a 6-storey mixed-use building at 20059 Fraser Highway. The first bylaw would amend the current Offical Community Plan to incorporate the new “Transit-Oriented Core” designation in the draft new Offical Community Plan. The second bylaw rezones the property to accommodate the proposed building.

View of proposed mixed-use building. 20059 Fraser Highway. Select rendering to enlarge.

The building has 38 one-bedroom units, 50 one-bedroom plus flex units, and 10 two-bedroom units. In addition, the ground floor has two 2,098 square foot commercial units. A coffee shop would be able to fit comfortably into one of the units.

The building includes two elevators because there are more than 80-units. In addition, it has an on-site loading zone.

Langley City’s Advisory Design Panel made eight recommendations focused on enhancing and expanding the rooftop amenity space, improving the lobby, increasing landscaping, adding outdoor amenity space on the second floor, and updating the building’s facades.

The applicant did not expand the rooftop amenity space, but did update the building to incorporate the other recommendations of the Advisory Design Panel.

City staff will now schedule a public hearing for this project.

Council also held a public hearing for a proposed 5-storey, 62-unit apartment located at 56th Avenue and 201A Street, which I posted about previously.

View of proposed apartment from the corner of 201A Street and 56th Avenue. 5609 201A Street. Select rendering to enlarge.

Council received one email from a resident concerned that people living in the apartment will create more car traffic. At the public hearing, a resident in virtual attendance was worried that the building would block the view of the mountains from her apartment.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

COVID-19 pandemic impacts on Langley City’s 2020 finances

As per provincial law, municipalities in BC must reconcile their previous year’s budget with their actual financial results. Municipalities must also have their financial results independently audited annually.

Langley City’s independent auditor presented to Council about her audit of the City’s financials. She did not raise any red flags to Council.

The following sections highlight some of the significant differences between the 2020 budget, which Council approved, and staff developed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff budgeted $7.2 million in gaming proceeds from the casino, but because the casino closed at the start of the pandemic, the City only received $1.5 million in proceeds. However, the federal/provincial COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant of $4.2 million that the City received helped offset this loss in proceeds.

City staff budgeted $31.8 million in property tax revenue for 2020. Instead, the City collected $30.4 million in property tax. This $1.4 million gap was due to the COVID-19 pandemic creating financial hardships for property owners.

Overall planned spending was reduced from $52.9 million to $48.5 million, a difference of $4.4 million. This reduction was mainly due to unfilled staff positions and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also interesting to note was a reduction in water usage in 2020. In addition, the City’s conversion of streetlights to LED resulted in a $49,000 reduction in maintenance costs. Costs associated with vandalism and expenses related to cleaning up campsites in our parks were $58,000 over budget in 2020.

The City transfers a portion of the revenue received to reserve accounts. Reserve accounts are used to fund building and renewing City infrastructure and one-off initiatives such as updating the Offical Community Plan.

The City transferred the cost savings of $494,583 in policing to the “future police costs” reserve account. The City also topped up the prosperity fund by $1 million. While the City transferred $5.6 million less to the gaming proceeds reserve than budgeted, it transferred $5.3 million more than budgeted to the capital works reserve due to the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant and operational savings.

Overall, the City is in good financial health.

For more information, please read the staff report on the 2020 financials as well as a draft of the 2020 Consolidated Financial Statements.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Spring Metro Vancouver Council of Councils Meeting: Budgets, Metro 2050 Regional Growth Strategy, TransLink’s Transport 2050 Strategy

Twice a year, elected local representatives gather for a Metro Vancouver Regional District Council of Councils meeting. During the meeting, we hear updates from regional district staff and have the opportunity to ask questions of regional district staff.

On Saturday, around 120 local representatives attended a Zoom meeting.

I virtually attended Saturday’s Metro Vancouver Council of Councils meeting.

Regional district staff noted that the 2021 operation budget is $939.5 million, with the loin’s share of expense for water and liquid waste services. The capital budget for 2021 is $1.5 billion, funding significant wastewater treatment plant new-builds and renewals. The capital budget is funding by a combination of operation budget contributions, developer charges, and debt.

Staff also noted that they are continually looking to find new revenue streams and cost-saving opportunities. For example, they said selling natural gas as a byproduction of liquid waste management is a new revenue stream.

Metro Vancouver’s Climate Action Committee chair presented roadmaps for our region to become carbon neutral by 2050. One of the direct actions that municipalities can take is to adopt higher steps of the BC Energy Step Code. Metro Vancouver will encourage all municipalities to adopt Step 4 or 5.

I posted the transportation and housing updates for Metro 2050, the region’s proposed updated new regional growth strategy, last week. Regional district staff highlighted Metro 2050, including:

  • Creating a compact urban area
  • Strengthening the Urban Contain Boundary by focusing growth in urban centres and transit corridors
  • Protecting industrial land, local food production, and food security
  • Protecting conservation and recreation land
  • Protecting, restoring, and connecting ecosystems throughout the region by ensuring 50% of the region is natural areas
  • Reducing GHG emissions through land-use and settlement patterns.
  • Expanding the variety and supply of housing
  • Increasing affordable housing with a focus on affordable housing near transit
  • Supporting sustainable transportation choices like walking, cycling, and transit

Metro Vancouver staff stated that housing affordability is still the most significant concern among elected officials.

TransLink is also working on Transport 2050, which is the region’s transportation strategy. TransLink and Metro Vancouver staff are coordinating both Metro 2050 and Transport 2050.

The goals of Transport 2050 are to increase convenient, reliable, affordable, safe & comfortable, and carbon-free transportation options.

The plan has the following goals:

  • People take 50% of all trips by walking, cycling, or transit
  • People spend 20% less time stuck in congestion compared to 2019
  • People spend no more than 45% of their income on housing and transportation
  • There are no serious traffic injuries or fatalities, with reductions every year
  • By 2030, transportation-related GHG emissions will be cut in half and be zero in 2050

TransLink is making a big push for Vision Zero and slower streets in Transport 2050. TransLink staff also noted that they are looking at interregional rail to Squamish and the Fraser Valley in Transport 2050.

On autonomous vehicles, TransLink will be pushing a car-sharing model; otherwise, if we all own autonomous vehicles, there will be a massive increase in congestion.

Metro Vancouver staff noted that they are improving public notification and alerting around the Cleveland Dam and the Capilano River.