Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Township of Langley's Offical Community Plan Update

As I posted about last week, each municipality in Metro Vancouver has until the end of July to update its official community plan (OCP) to conform to Metro Vancouver’s Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). You can read more about the RGS in last week’s post, and can read a primer on regional districts if you want more information about the process. The Township of Langley is no exception to this requirement.

Right now, the Township is pushing through the Trinity Western University District which includes the controversially Wall Financial Corporation 67 single-family “equestrian community” in the Agricultural Land Reserve. It appears that they are pushing this through before the adoption of the proposed new OCP as the Township believes it is still legally under the old Livable Regional Strategic Plan (LRSP). The LRSP is much weaker when it comes to enforcing land-use, and the new RGS would not allow the University District/Wall proposal.

Anyway, the Township is now working on an update to its OCP to bring it in-line with Metro's RGS and the Township's own Sustainability Charter. The Township will be requesting that some regional land-use designations be changed. Some of these changes will require 2/3rds of Metro Vancouver's board to approve as well as a regional public hearing. The biggest change and most controversial change will be around the University District.

It appears that Metro Vancouver believes that the University District proposal violates both the old LRSP and the new RGS. Metro Vancouver even threatened legal action against the Township at one point last year. I guess the Township is hoping that if they push through the University District before officially adopting their new OCP, it will be too late for Metro Vancouver to do anything, and Metro will have no choice but to update the RGS to reflect the reality of the University District.

The Township has made the following map which indicates where it would like to change regional land-use designations.

Differences between Metro Vancouver's RGS and the Township's proposed land-uses in red. Click image to enlarge.

Just like the City of Langley, the Township of Langley also has the new regional mixed-employment land designation for industrial, commercial and other employment related uses. Unlike the City of Langley which is proposing to put big-box retail in their “mixed-employment” zone, the Township is still trying to limit big-box retail to the Willowbrook area. The mixed-employment zone is the regional codification of office parks and sprawl as I haven’t seen any walkable office parks in the region. Let’s hope the Township breaks that trend.

Besides the requirement of conforming its OCP to Metro's RGS, the Township’s proposed OCP has been completely rewritten under the lens of its Sustainability Charter. The OCP is now broken down into the following sub-sections: Social and Cultural Policies, Economic Policies, and Environmental Policies.

University District aside, the proposed new OCP is more inline with 21st Century thought on sustainable, walkable urban design. The OCP spends a lot of time talking about building complete communities and complete streets “that are designed and operated to enable safe, attractive, and comfortable access and travel for users of all ages and abilities, including pedestrians, cyclists, public transit users, and motorists.” The new OCP also includes a provision for adaptable housing to align with the Township’s new goal of being an “age-friendly” community.

The proposed new OCP is something that Township residences can be proud of. If followed, it will lay the groundwork for a sustainable community and walkable urban cores. Of course, it will take time before the overall goals in the OCP flow down into neighbourhood and area plans (like the rural plan) that actually drive the shape of the community.

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