Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Metro Vancouver's Regional Growth Strategy, Langley City, and Sprawl

In the summer of 2011, Metro Vancouver adopted a new Regional Growth Strategy for the region. As part of the process, all communities in Metro Vancouver have two years to make sure that their Official Community Plan lines up with the Regional Growth Strategy, and the Official Community Plans must be accepted by Metro Vancouver. This means that all municipalities in Metro Vancouver have until July to get their Official Community Plan aligned with the Regional Growth Strategy.

Each Municipalities’ Official Community Plan must contain a regional context statement which explains the relationship between the Regional Growth Strategy and the Official Community Plan, how the Official Community Plan aligns with the objectives of the Regional Growth Strategy, and how any inconsistency in the Official Community Plan will conform to the Regional Growth Strategy over time.

In Metro Vancouver, the Regional Growth Strategy contains the following goals which all municipalities must conform to:
Goal 1: Create a Compact Urban Area
Goal 2: Support a Sustainable Economy
Goal 3: Protect the Environment and respond to Climate Change Impacts
Goal 4: Develop Complete Communities
Goal 5: Support Sustainable Transportation Choices

The Regional Growth Strategy also contains high-level regional zoning and includes a parcel based map of the regional zoning which all municipalities must conform to.

The City of Langley is currently in the process of updating its Official Community Plan to bring it in line with Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. One of the minor difference between Metro Vancouver’s zoning map and the City’s is an adjustment of the regional agricultural zone which is a result of the Clemas property (21024 Old Yale Road) being removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve in 2011. The City is requesting that Metro Vancouver update its Regional Growth Strategy to reflect this change which will require a regional public hearing and a 2/3rds weighted vote approval by Metro Vancouver’s board which is made up of politicians from each municipality in the region elected by their peers in their respective councils.

Regional zoning map as approved by Metro Vancouver. Grey: General Urban, Purple: Industrial, Salmon: Mixed Employment, Light Green: Agricultural, Dark Green: Conservation.

Regional zoning map as proposed by the City of Langley. Grey: General Urban, Purple: Industrial, Salmon: Mixed Employment, Light Green: Agricultural, Dark Green: Conservation.

Another major change for the City of Langley is the replacement of some Industrial zoned land in the City with “Mixed Employment” zoned land. The “Mixed Employment” zone is “industrial, commercial and other employment related uses to help meet the needs of the regional economy” according to the Regional Growth Strategy. Basically this zone bans residential housing, but it also appears to codify office parks and other unsustainable forms of development as it puts places where people work away from where they live. The City of Langley proposes to allow anything in this new zone except for residential, and explicitly allows big-box retail. What really disturbs me is that the built-form along the Langley Bypass which does not support sustainable, compact communities, and is a hostile pedestrian environment, will be allowed in other parts of the City.

The irony of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy is that it is actually promoting more sprawl in the City of Langley and other municipalities because of the “Mixed Employment” zone. I talked with some people at Metro Vancouver and was told that the Mixed Employment zone was something that was requested by member municipalities to get the Regional Growth Strategy approved. As Metro Vancouver is a federation of municipalities, it needs buy-ins from all municipalities to get the Regional Growth Strategy adopted. I guess the feeling was, all the good from the Strategy more than makes up for the bad “Mixed Employment” zone, or as I’ll call it, the sprawl zone.

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