Thursday, June 13, 2019

June 10 Council Meeting Notes: Moving forward with restricting camping at Rotary Centennial Park

In 2015, the BC Supreme Court ruled that people who are experiencing homelessness can camp in municipal parks between 7pm and 9am. People are allowed to camp until a community has enough shelter/supportive housing spaces available to accommodate all people who are experiencing homelessnes in a community under the ruling. We currently do not have enough spaces in Langley.

BC Housing is working on building more supportive housing in Langley, and a new 49-unit facility is opening soon. The 2017 regional homeless count found that there was at least 79 people who were unsheltered and experiencing homelessness; this number is likely higher today. 49 units of supportive housing with 24/7 wraparound care is a good start, but it is likely that we need at least another 50 more units in our community.

While we wait for more supportive housing spaces, the BC Supreme Court ruling remains in effect. In response to the court ruling, Langley City council approved an update to our Parks and Public Faculties Bylaw which allows for people who are experiencing homelessness to erect temporary shelter and camp between 7pm and 9am in parks. Temporary shelters must be removed by 9am.

The bylaw also places reasonable restrictions on where camping can take place in parks. For example, camping is not allowed in playgrounds, flower beds, washrooms, sports courts, and sports fields. Camping is also not allowed in all public plazas, public squares, and public buildings.

The BC Supreme Court ruling allows municipalities to restrict camping in whole parks, but only if it doesn’t impact a person who is experiencing homelessness the ability to seek shelter that is easily accessible. As such, every camping restriction must be carefully considered. Currently camping is restricted in the whole of Douglas Park.

Rotary Centennial Park. Area inside red square is in the process of having a 24/7 restriction on camping being put in place. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City council is in the process of considering restricting camping in the whole of Rotary Centennial Park. The reasoning behind placing a restriction on camping in the whole park include:

  • The park’s proximity to high density housing including low income families with children who play in the park.
  • The large number of Syrian Government-Assisted Refugees live in the neighbourhood and are vulnerable due to limited English language skills.
  • The concern of residents about exposing their children to the ongoing intravenous drug use by some people who are sheltering overnight.
  • The on-going challenge with some people who are sheltering overnight who consistently refuse to abide by the BC Supreme Court ruling which states that shelters must be taken down between 9am and 7pm, so that other park users can enjoy the playing field and rest of the park.
  • There are other areas nearby where camping is permitted.

Council gave first, second, and third reading to amend the Parks and Public Facilities Regulation Bylaw to include Rotary Centennial as a park where camping is restricted in the whole park.

One of the ways to reduce homelessness is to make sure that there is enough supportive housing in our community. I will continue to advocate to the province and BC Housing for more supportive housing for Langley.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

June 10 Council Meeting Notes: Presentations on secondary suites, the climate crises, plastic pollution, and increasing provincial funding for libraries.

Today, I will be continuing posting about the items that were heard at Monday night’s Langley City council meeting.

There were four groups that presented to council on Monday. The first presentation was from Diane Gendron from Bard in the Valley. This organization has been presenting Shakespeare plays in Douglas Park and in other parts of Langley for 10 years. Gendron noted that in celebration of their 10th season, they will be bringing back “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which was their first production. She thanked council for our on-going support of Bard in the Valley, and noted that of their 17 performances this year, 8 of them will be in Douglas Park. As always, the shows will be free to see in the park.

Council also heard a presentation from Andrea Baird who is a person that rents housing in our community. She stated that her family and another family live in one single-family house. The single-family house has a main area and a legal secondary suite. She stated that when she and the other family rented in the house, they didn’t know it was in violation of the City’s secondary suite bylaw which requires that all houses with secondary suites be owner-occupied.

In Langley City, one space in a single-family house can be rented out, but the other space must remain owner-occupied. Because this matter came to the attention of the City, the City had to enforce its bylaw. Baird noted that with the current housing crises in our region where less than 1% of all rental units are empty, the City should reconsider the owner-occupied requirement for legal secondary suites. She also presented a petition with 100 or so signatures.

She was concerned that she would not be able to find another place to rent and would have to up-root her family.

Langley City is currently in the process of updating its Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw. This includes reviewing the owner-occupied requirements for secondary suites. As this process will require the collaboration of the whole community, I do not know what the result of this process will be.

At the meeting, City staff confirmed that the information Ms. Baird submitted will be considered as part of the updating process.

Council heard from Chloe Arneson, Josh Park, Alexandra Munday, and Prabhasha Wickramaarachchi from Walnut Grove Secondary School about their proposal to “Stop The Ocean Plastic (STOP)”. They presented on their education plan around stopping the proliferation of plastic waste which eventually ends up in our oceans. This group of students received a $10,000 scholarship for their idea at the Langley School District’s I.D.E.A. Summit recently.

A presentation by Sustainabiliteens. Select image to enlarge.

The next presentation was from Sustainabiliteens “which is a group of teens from across Metro Vancouver organizing actions including climate strikes” around the current climate crises. They asked that council consider passing a motion declaring a climate emergency in Langley. This is a symbolic motion which has been passed in hundreds of other cities. They also called on the City to be more aggressive its own greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Councillor Albrecht and I asked that they present to the City’s new Environment Task Group to help flush out the details of their motion, and their proposal around emission reduction targets. Councillor Wallace and Albrecht chair the Environment Task Group. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the Sustainabiliteens collaboration with our new task group.

Currently, the provincial government provides grants to offset the cost of providing library services to communities. This includes a per-capita grant as well as grants to support programs such as the InterLINK program in Metro Vancouver.

For Langley City, the per-capita grant worked out to $46,081 this year. Across BC, $14 million in grants were provided by the province. This is a modest number.

The City of Victoria sent out a letter to all municipalities in the province noting that this per-capita grant has been frozen since 2009, and requested that councils call on their mayors to sent a letter “to the Minister of Education, the Premier, and all local MLAs strongly advocating for the restoration of library funding to a level that reflects both inflationary cost increases since 2009 and the value of this system to the Province.”

Councillor Martin put a motion forward to support Victoria's request which was unanimously approved by council.

Tomorrow will be my final post about Monday night’s council meeting.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

June 10 Council Meeting Notes: Public Hearing for Apartment Proposal in Brydon Area. Construction Tenders Awarded.

Last night’s Langley City council meeting started with a public hearing for a proposed 5-storey, 115-unit apartment building located in the Brydon Crescent area as shown in the following images.

Location of proposed building at 5443, 5453, 5461, 5469 Brydon Crescent. Select map to enlarge.

Rendering of proposed building from Brydon Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

At the public hearing, the proponent of this project provided a presentation to people attending about the proposed building. Some of the highlights include that the proposed building will include six 3-bedroom units which provide housing options for families. It is also proposed to include nine adaptable units which support people with limited mobility.

The proposed project was originally going to include two electric vehicle charging stations from day-one with other parking spots in the building roughed-in for charging stations in the future. The Advisory Planning Commission strongly encouraged the project’s proponent to include additional day-one charging stations. At the public hearing, the proponent noted that they are now planning to include four charging stations from day-one.

The City’s current high-density residential zone (RM3) requires that buildings be setback 7.5 metres from the road. New best practice calls for buildings to be setback closer to the street to improve community safety by providing more “eyes and ears” on the street, and to create a stronger link between private property and the public realm. This proposed building will be allowed to be setback 6 metres from the road. As a note, Langley City is currently updating its zoning bylaw.

In addition, each of the 1st floor units are proposed to have a private stairway to connect the units to the street. This creates a further link between the public and private realms which support building a safer community.

One common concern that I hear from residents in our community is that construction traffic and crew parking on the street causes disruptions. The proponent presented their traffic management plan at the public hearing. Some members of council also reminded them that they need to find off-street parking for construction crews.

Council did receive an email from a resident in the area concerned about the green space along the west side of Brydon Crescent being removed as a result of this project. City staff confirmed that this green space is a protected area and will not be impacted by any proposed housing project in the area.

Later during the meeting, council approved the following:

  • Funding an emergency replacement of the fire hall backup power generator for no more than $50,000
  • Awarding a contract to Trenchless Construction Inc. in the amount of $484,695.00 (excluding GST) to replace the sanitary sewer under 203rd Street between Fraser Highway and Logan Avenue.
  • Awarding a contract to Watershed Designs Inc. in the amount of $1,452,717.60 (excluding GST) to replace the Logan Creek culvert as shown on the following map.
    Map showing the location of the Logan Creek Culvert Replacement Project, just north of the Twin Rinks Arena. Select image to enlarge.

Throughout the rest of the week, I will be posting about other items addressed at Monday night’s council meeting.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Langley City’s 2018 Annual Report Online

Over the last several months, Langley City council has been reviewing the 2018 financial results of the municipality. This includes reviewing the independent audit of our financials as well as reconciling the 2018 budget with the year-end results. This information is used to help produce an annual report which must be made available for the public to view by the end of June each year. This is a requirement under provincial legislation.

Langley City has posted its 2018 annual report online. The formatting of this year’s annual report has changed compared to previous years. The annual reports have been traditionally text heavy. This year, the annual report provides a simple dashboard-like look at the accomplishments of Langley City departments. The following is an example for the Engineering, Parks, & Environment Department.

2018 Accomplishments of Langley City’s Engineering, Parks, & Environment Department. Select image to enlarge.

One of the interesting sections of the report is property tax revenue collected. Municipalities collect property taxes on behalf of other organizations; municipalities do not control the taxes levied by those organizations. The following table outlines the property taxes collected in Langley City in 2018. Around 58% of property taxes collected went to Langley City directly.

Property Tax For: Amount
Langley City $26,952,217
School Board $14,308,048
TransLink $2,872,013
British Columbia Assessment Authority $440,504
Metro Vancouver Regional District $473,148
Downtown Langley Merchants Association* $443,237
Municipal Finance Authority $1,991

The City also received $15.7 million in user fees which include water and sewer fees. The majority of the utility fees are used to purchase water and sewer services from the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

The annual report also contains information about how the City has been meeting the strategic initiatives of council, information about community grants, and information about permissive property tax exemptions.

The report without the financial statements is around 30 pages long. Please check it out to learn more about your local government and the services it provided last year.

*Only levied on commercial properties downtown.