Tuesday, September 29, 2020

September 28 Council Meeting: Status Quo for $62,278 in Non-Profit Property Tax Exemptions

One of the abilities of municipal councils is to grant permissive property tax exemptions. These grants exemption certain properties from property tax. These permissive tax exemptions must be reviewed annually.

At last night’s Langley City council meeting, the 2021 Permissive Property Tax Exemption Bylaw was discussed and given first, second, and third reading.

There are two types of permissive property tax exemptions in Langley City. The first exemptions are for City-owned property which is leased to the following organization:

Langley Seniors Resource Society - 20605 51B Avenue
Langley Stepping Stones - 20101 Michaud Crescent
Langley Community Music School - 4899 207 Street
Langley Lawn Bowling (Outdoor) - 20471 54 Avenue
Langley Community Services Society - 5339 207 Street
Governing Council of the Salvation Army - 5787 Langley Bypass

These are clear-cut exemptions as it would make limited sense for the City to tax itself.

The second type of exemptions are more ad hoc. Previous councils have granted permissive tax exemptions to:

Global School Society starting in 2001. Private schools receive a statutory property tax exemption for the land school buildings and other improvements are on in BC. This permissive exemption covers the remainder of the property owned by the school.

Langley Care Society (Langley Lodge) starting in 2005 as a result of the BC Assessment Authority revoking their partial property tax exemption which they previously received since 1974.

Langley Hospice Society and Inclusion Langley received permissive tax exemptions for select properties starting in 2010.

These four permissive tax exemptions will reduce Langley City’s property tax revenue by $62,278 in 2021.

Unlike the provincial or federal governments, municipalities are not allowed to run deficit budgets. This means that the $62,278 must come from other property owners. If Langley City did not provide $62,278 in property tax exemptions in 2021, property tax could be reduced by 0.2% city-wide.

Because of this impact on property tax, no new property tax exemptions have been approved (even though new requests are receive annually) since I’ve been on council.

This year, the City received four new requests for additional properties to be exempted. The following list shows the organizations which applied, their property locations, and City permissive tax exemption requested.

Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary - 20560 Fraser Highway: $37,390
Inclusion Langley - 20689 Fraser Highway: $8,093
Langley Food Bank - 5780 203 Street: $12,332
Eureka Temple Society - 20701 Fraser Highway: $26,373

Langley Council received around 50 pieces of correspondence from supporters of the Langley Food Bank about their request for a permissive tax exemption.

Mayor van den Broek put a motion forward to include the Langley Food Bank to receive a permissive tax exemption in 2021. There was a good discussion about this, but in the end the motion was defeat by Councillor Martin, James, Albrecht, and me.

While I believe the foodbank is an important part of our community, I did not feel comfortable giving new permissive tax exemptions. There are two reasons why.

We have many non-profit organizations in our community that do great work. They do not receive permissive tax exemptions. Council does not have a policy on which organizations should or should not received permissive tax exemptions. This would be a hard policy to create. If I were to grant a new permissive tax exemption to one non-profit, I would feel like I would have to for all that applied.

As I said earlier, granting a permissive tax exemption is not free money. For each permissive property tax exemption granted, property tax must be increased to cover the loss in revenue. This increase is paid by all remaining property owners.

For these reasons, I view the current exemptions we have in place as grandfathered. While no policies exist for new permissive tax exemption requests, I will remain hesitant to vote in favour of granting new permissive exemptions.

Non-profits are encouraged to apply to Langley City’s Community Grant program. The Langley Food Bank has received community grants from Langley City in the past (including in 2020.)

The status quo will likely be maintained for permissive property tax exemptions in 2021.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Safety Improvement and Traffic Pattern Change for Grade Crescent at 208 Street

There is a significant change coming to the intersection of 208th Street and Grade Crescent/47 Avenue starting October 5th.

Currently, this intersection is a full uncontrolled intersection, but it will be changing to a limited movement intersection to increase safety. Traffic volumes and speed have been increasing along 208th Street over the last several years.

As a result, a median will be installed as shown in the following diagram.

Median at 208 Street and Grade Crescent

This means that only right-in, right-out turns will be allowed from Grade Crescent and 47 Avenue onto 208th Street. Through traffic between 47 Avenue and Grade Crescent will not be permitted. Left turns will not be permitted from 47 Avenue or Grade Crescent onto 208th Street, but left turns will be permitted from 208th Street onto 47 Avenue or Grade Crescent.

This change was originally proposed back in 2011, and was approved by council in the summer of 2019. Various other options were considered including a roundabout, traffic light, and other alternative lane configurations.

The traffic light was ruled out by the project engineers as it would be at the base of the hill which is against best practices. While a roundabout makes sense, it would require property acquisition which would make this a longer-term idea to consider.

For those people that live between 205th and 208th Street on Grade Crescent, they will now have to use 48th Avenue to head northbound on 208th Street.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact the City’s Engineering, Parks and Environment Department at 604-514-2997 or email engineering@langleycity.ca.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Metro Vancouver pilot program to reduce strata energy usage a success

Strata Building

In Metro Vancouver about 31% of households live in stratas, in Langley City that number is 43%. We also know that around 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in our region is a result of building energy usage which includes lighting, hot water, heating, and cooling.

Reducing energy usage in buildings is a key requirement if we are to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to help mitigate some of the impacts of climate change.

Both the provincial and federal governments have programs to help people that own detached housing retrofit their homes to reduce energy utilization. These programs have missed people that live in stratas.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District partnered with some municipalities in our region to launch a pilot program to help strata corporations reduce energy usage, and “make smarter choices, save money over time, and improve their building.” This program was supported by BC Hydro, Fortis BC, and BC Housing. The pilot program was called “Strata Energy Advisor.

82 strata corporations took part in the pilot program which included a walk-through energy assessment and business case report outline ways to save energy and money.

As a result of the program, 38 stratas completed energy efficiency retrofits which represented 2,642 households. This pilot program has resulted in 640,605 kWh of electricity and 3,758 GJ of natural gas being saved per year. The total lifetime greenhouse gas reduction for the pilot program is 2,265 tonnes.

These are large numbers show that the pilot program was a success. The pilot program also had some challenges, but the pilot program report outlines how these challenges were met.

As the pilot program was a success, Metro Vancouver Regional District staff are looking to roll out a full region-wide Strata Energy Advisor program.

I live in a strata apartment that was build in the 1980s and rebuilt in the early 2000s due to a fire. I know that our strata corporation would benefit from a program like this as completing an energy audit without the support of a program like Strata Energy Advisor would be a difficult endeavor.

I hope that the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors (which consist of mayors and councillors) approves moving forward with a region-wide program. It will help people save money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a meaningful way.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

August COVID-19 Cases by Municipal Area in South of Fraser/Fraser Valley

The BC CDC has recently shared the number of COVID-19 cases by Local Health Area. They included a map which has a colour-coded representation of the cases per 100,000. To help quantify the data further, I thought I would create a chart which shows the new case rate for August.

This chart is based on new COVID-19 cases as shown in the following table. The new cases are extrapolated from the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases from January until the end of July, and January until the end of August. You can read my prevoius post to see a chart from January until the end of July. Data is from the BC CDC, and the 2019 municipal population estimates.

Municipal Area Population Cumulative Cases
- End of August
Cumulative Cases
- End of July
August New Cases Rate per 100,000
Chilliwack 94,534 38 34 4 4
Ridge Meadows 110,950 119 96 23 21
Delta 109,490 101 62 39 36
Mission 43,202 175 158 17 39
Langley 158,642 219 138 81 51
Abbotsford 158,457 561 454 107 68
Surrey/White Rock 605,553 1097 585 512 85