Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Metro Vancouver sues Township of Langley over University District

Last year I posted that Metro Vancouver was going to sue the Township of Langley over its proposed Trinity Western University District if it was approved by Township Council. Metro Vancouver believed that the University District violated the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) that all member municipalities in the region (included the Township of Langley) signed off on in 2011. Metro Vancouver also believed the University District violated the older Livable Region Strategic Plan (LRSP) as well. The Township has maintained that it is doing nothing wrong, that the decision to approve the University District is legal, and that the University District does not violate the old LRSP (which the Township believes the University District approval falls under.)

Interesting enough, the University District area that the Township has approved for urban development is a Special Study Area in the RGS. As such, it would have only required a simple weighted majority vote to get its land-use changed and would have been considered a minor amendment. If this type of change —from agricultural/rural land-use to urban land-use— was outside a Special Study Area, it would need a two-thirds weighted vote and a regional public hearing. In either case, the land could not be in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

I think that one of reasons the Township got into hot water with Metro Vancouver is because the municipality decided to enlarge the University District from the 67 single-family housing development on 13.5 acres, and 23.4 acres of land located just west of the current Trinity Western University —which the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) approved for development— to 375.6 acres with land that is still in the ALR. The ALC has stated that it does not currently support the University District beyond what it has already approved.

Metro Vancouver's RGS says the region will "not amend the Agricultural or Rural land use designation of a site if it is still part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, except to change it to an Agricultural land use designation."

The Township of Langley might have avoided this whole mess if it just made the University District the ALC-approved 36.9 acres, and had not moved forward with the inclusion of 338.7 acres of ALR land into the University District.

Now that the Township of Langley has approved the University District, the Vancouver Sun is reporting that Metro Vancouver has filed a petition in BC Supreme Court to quash the Township's enlarged University District.

Metro argues the township is attempting to arbitrarily amend the designated green zone for intensive uses, when it is required to put the proposed changes to the regional board for a vote under the new regional growth strategy.

But Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese maintains his council has a lawful right to rezone the property, which has been earmarked for development for more than two decades and is intended to “provide educational, employment, and residential opportunities for future generations.”

Whatever the outcome of this court action, the results will set a precedent about the authority municipalities and regional districts have when it comes to land-use planning.

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