Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013: a turning point in the livability of Metro Vancouver?

As this will be my last post of the year, I thought I’d briefly talk about the year that was and what 2014 might have in store for livability in our region.

The words “turning point” get used a lot, but I believe that 2013 will be seen as a turning point in Metro Vancouver. For almost 30 years, the region has been committed to preserving green space; building a region of compact, accessible town centres and corridor. This could all change in 2014.

Transit is critical to the success of our region. It is needed to implement the vision of a sustainable, livable region. With much needed transit expansion at a standstill as there is no money to expand the system, the province and region were working to find a sustainable revenue stream for TransLink. This came to an abrupt end in 2012. In 2013, during the election, Christy Clark and the BC Liberals promised a referendum on any new revenue for TransLink. The challenge is that no one seems to know what the referendum question will be. Last week Premier Clark talked about the referendum being a multiply choice affair while her Transportation Minister, Todd Stone, talked about the referendum being a simply yes/no. If new transit funding is approved by the public, our region will remain on the course of livability. If the referendum fails, it will have negative economic, environmental, and social effects in our region.

The second critical issue will be the preservation of the agricultural land reserve. Right now the ALR acts as an urban growth boundary and protects the best farmland in BC from sprawling urban development. This fall, the provincial government threatened to fundamentally change how the ALR is managed. If the ALR becomes open to development, our region’s green space and food lands will quickly disappear. We will lose our most valuable natural asset.

Metro Vancouver and the Township of Langley are in court over the proposed University District. The outcome of the case could determine what authority a regional district in BC has over land-use.

By this time next year, we’ll know if we will be a livable region or the next Dallas, Texas (a region known for its sprawl.)

In the Township of Langley, I was most disappointed to hear about the court-ordered halting of construction for the Coulter Berry Building in Fort Langley. With all the auto-oriented development in Langley, it sadness me that some people in Langley have no issues with sprawl, but will fight tooth-and-nail to prevent the construction of a building that will promote a walkable village centre. The Township of Langley has appealed the court case, and in 2014 we will know the success of the appeal.

In Langley City, I’m concerned that while on paper the municipality supports creating a walkable downtown core, in practice they have support projects that put cars ahead of people.

Let’s not forget that 2014 will also be an election year for local government, and in Langley it should prove to be interesting.

As someone who cares about the future livability and long-term prosperity of our region, I’m a bit scared as 2013 comes to a close. Will 2014 bring expanded transit service with light rail in Surrey and SkyTrain to UBC, with renewed commitment to preserving agricultural land as we build a livable region? Or will our regional vision unravel?

Interesting enough, it was the province that created the conditions that threaten the prosperity of our region, and I believe the province must play a key role to correct the problems it created.

“Greater Vancouver can become the first urban region in the world to combine in one place the things to which humanity aspires on a global basis: a place where human activities enhance rather than degrade the natural environment, where the quality of the built environment approaches that of the natural setting, where the diversity of origins and religions is a source of social strength rather than strife, where people control the destiny of their community, and where the basics of food, clothing, shelter, security and useful activity are accessible to all.” —Source: Creating Our Future

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