Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Urban Creep in the Township

When the Township of Langley decided to pursue the creation of the 150+ hectare University District, it created controversy in the community and the region due to the sheer size of the proposal. People were concerned about the urbanization of rural land in Langley and the loss of farmland. While proposals like the University District create controversy, urban creep into currently rural parts of Langley mostly goes unnoticed. Even though these changes normal impact one lot at a time, in the long run the results are exactly the same: the loss of rural land. It reminds me of the frog in water. Turn up the heat too fast, and it will jump out of the pot. But turn up the heat slowly, and it will boil to death.

One such example of urban creep into rural Langley is a proposal around 86A Avenue and 217A Street at the edge of Walnut Grove. Some land owners in the area want to put their rural land that is currently in Langley’s Rural Plan area into the Walnut Grove Community Plan area. Their current Small Farm/County Estates zoning allows up to two houses per lots. This is fairly coming in rural areas.

Map of 86A Avenue and 217A Street where zoning changes are being proposed.

Since this land around 86A Avenue and 217A Street is not in the ALR, land owners converted their lots from fee-simple to strata plans to allow two houses per lots with essentially private ownership for each strata lot. This is clearly not rural, but is suburban housing.

The owners are now asking for these strata lots to be split into two fee-simple lots, slowly turning up the heat, by asking the Township to formalizing these down-to-½-acre suburban lots and housing by changing their zoning.

Township Council asked their staff to come up with some ideas on how to make this happen. Staff came back with two options.

Option one would change the designation of the land from rural to urban (moving it inside our region’s urban growth boundary.) This would require Metro Vancouver’s involvement and require the population-weighted support of 2/3rd our region’s municipalities. It would also trigger the involvement of the Ministry of Agricultural. Following this option would align with the spirit of land-use planning in Metro Vancouver and the Township’s own Rural Plan.

Option two would amend the Township's Rural Plan to allow smaller lots sizes to meet the proposal requirements by some of the owners around 86A Avenue and 217A Street. This is the sneaky options and would result in creating another Salmon River/Uplands-type area which has its own set of issues. This would further erode the protection of rural land in Langley and may open up other rural areas in Langley for suburban development.

People in Langley and Metro Vancouver care deeply about the preservation of rural and farmland in our region. Municipal government also claims to support the preservation of rural and farmland as well. Unfortunately, municipal government in Metro Vancouver has a lousy track record of actually protecting rural and farmland. This is why it is important to have an enforceable urban growth boundary and the Agricultural Land Reserve; it protects us from ourselves.

You can read more about this proposed change at the edge of Walnut Grove from the agenda of the Township’s last public hearing.

No comments: