Thursday, February 22, 2024

Langley City's Crime Prevention Committee Calls for Secure Bike Parking

If you've been to Downtown Langley, you will see that we have various designs of bike racks, from whimsical to practical, on the street and around Timms Community Centre. There are also chain-linked bike parking spots in the Timms Community Centre parkade.

Langley City's volunteer-led Crime Prevention Committee noted the current bike rack and parking may not be the most secure and called on Langley City Council to look into installing modern, secure bike parking around Timms Community Centre. Council supported this recommendation and asked City staff to prepare a report with proposed locations, style, and cost of installing secure bike parking. With the massive adoption of e-bikes, which can be expensive, there must be a safe place to park the bikes in our downtown area.

Example of multi-point lock bike racks. Select the image to enlarge.

Example of bike storage lockups. Select the image to enlarge.

In Kelowna, they have excellent bike parking throughout their downtown. I'd like to see more of it throughout Langley City, including in strip malls.

Many people attend Community Day and other events downtown, but again, there is limited opportunity to securely park bikes due to the sheer volume of people attending. The Crime Prevention Committee asks if, for Earth Day or Community Day, the City could consider assigning space around Douglas Park to support a volunteer Bike Valet, as you see at many events throughout Metro Vancouver. Langley City Council supported this request.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

February 12 Council Notes: Contaminated Soil Increases Project Cost 21%, Accepting Gifts, Invasive Mussels

In May 2023, Langley City Council approved awarding a $4,156,715.00 tender to McDonald & Ross Construction Ltd. The tender was for renewing the:

  • Watermain, sanitary sewer, and storm sewer along 56 Avenue from 200 Street to 203 Street
  • Traffic signal at the 56 Avenue & 201A Street intersection
  • Watermain on Park Avenue

At last Monday's Langley City Council meeting, City staff asked Council to increase the tender by $898,500.

The construction company must remove and dispose of soil as part of the project. At the start of the project last year, the company found that the soil's chloride (salt) levels exceeded new provincial regulations, making the soil "contaminated material," significantly increasing disposal costs. The new disposal cost is $638,569.32. City staff also recommend an additional $240,664.22 contingency. These changes increase the overall tender from $4.2 million to $5.1 million, or a 21% increase.

Council had a robust discussion with City staff on this increase, including asking that City staff implement further checks and balances to ensure we don't experience similar project cost increases due to contaminated soils in the future.

Council approved increasing the tender.

At the same meeting, Council approved updating our "City Amenity Gift Program Policy" - CO62. Occasionally, the City will receive benches, outdoor clocks, or other gifts from groups. These gifts can have unintended maintenance costs or shorter lifespans than standard City outdoor furnishings. The updated policy ensures that any gift donated to the City is from the City's standard outdoor furnishings and equipment catalogue.

Council also approved a rezoning bylaw and issued a development permit to allow a 6-storey, 126-unit apartment at 19948 55A Avenue. You can read more about this project in a previous post.

Finally, Council asked City staff to draft a letter in response to a request from the Okanagan Basin Water Board to call on the province to continue to take action to prevent invasive mussels from being introduced into BC watersheds.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Feedback on Langley City's Proposed 2024 Budget

Last Monday, February 12th, Langley City Council dedicated a portion of its regular meeting to officially hearing feedback and reviewing written submissions on the proposed 2024 budget.

Four people gave Council the benefit of their opinions at the meeting. Two speakers were a husband and wife, who were not supportive of the budget and questioned why we were investing so much into police, including $11 million to acquire land for a possible new detachment for Langley City, given the uncertainty of the Township of Langley led de-integration process. I noted that the only thing certain in Metro Vancouver is the increased cost of land and that by purchasing the land now, we would save taxpayers a lot of money in the future. If we don't need the land, the City could sell it at a profit and reinvest that money into the community.

Another individual again questioned why we are considering investing more in police and fire protection and wanted fewer firefighters and police officers.

The final person who provided verbal feedback supported the budget.

Council also received six pieces of written correspondence. Three letter writers were in support of the proposed 2024 budget. One letter writer opposed increasing the number of firefighters. Another letter writer opposed increasing the number of firefighters and police officers; they wanted the City to invest the money instead into flood mitigation.

The Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce asked us to lower property taxes this year by charging more for recreation programming, deferring investment in police, fire, and bylaw services, and finding additional cost savings within the budget.

At the Council meeting, City staff noted that management looks for cost savings yearly and that no department is automatically granted funding just because they had it last year.

A common request from a few community members every year during the budget process is to defer spending until a future year or use capital works savings to fund ongoing operations to lower taxes in the current year. The problem with using capital works savings is that we are underinvesting in our infrastructure today, so any extra money we save throughout the year helps us reduce our deferred infrastructure maintenance. We are increasing the money we put aside every year to try and get out of this deferred maintenance. The more money we put aside, the faster we can get our infrastructure into a good state of repair.

The cost of labour, goods, and services will always increase unless we enter a recession; this means Langley City's property tax will have to increase yearly. If the proposed increase were 5% in year one, 5% in year two, and 5% in year three, and if Langley City Council lowered property tax in year one to 3%, year two would see a 7% increase.

Please visit Langley City's website for more information about the proposed 2024 budget.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

How do we build housing for the next million British Columbians?

This week, 400 local government representatives from throughout BC gather in Downtown Vancouver for the Union of BC Municipalities' "Housing Summit 2024: Local Vision. Local Action." I was one of six panellists during a Tuesday morning session titled "Housing the Next Million British Columbians."

We talked about some of the current challenges regarding the lack of affordable housing for working British Columbians, how the new changes to provincial laws on minimum densities (among other things) will impact local government and housing supply, and what we need to do as a country and province to get more affordable housing built, including the infrastructure to support population growth such as water, sewer, transit, schools, and health care services.

Folks from UBCM interviewed me after the panel, which I have shared below.