Thursday, February 22, 2018

February 19, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: $125,976.79 in community grants awarded

So far this week, I have posted about development proposals and the upcoming public meeting on the proposed bingo hall relocation at Cascades Casino. These items were part of Monday night’s Langley City council meeting agenda. Today, I will be posted about the remaining items that were covered.

Council heard two presentations. The first presentation was from Tim Cheung and Simon Lau of Unifor 2002. Their union is advocating for a federally supported, universal Pharmacare program. This idea has received support from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Cheung and Lau requested that Langley City send a letter of support for universal Pharmacare to our MPs and MLAs. Council agreed to send a letter of support.

A presentation from ICBC on its distracted driving awareness campaign. Select image to enlarge.

Leanne Cassap from ICBC delivered a presentation to council on its districted driving awareness campaign. She thanked the City and our staff for supporting the campaign.

Over the past month, the 2018 budget has been making its way through the process of getting adopted. On Monday, the 2018-22 Financial Plan received final reading, and was adopted by council. You can read more about the budget in previous posts.

Last year, the Langley City Crime Prevention Task Group asked council to pilot including a brochure as part of the business license renewal process, informing business owners about the free crime prevention assessment available through the RCMP. Due to the success of this pilot, the task group asked council to make including this brochure permanent. Council agreed.

The Langley Emergency Program is a shared responsibility of the City and Township of Langley. The Langley Emergency Program is interested in applying for a $25,000 grant from the provincial Community Emergency Preparedness Fund. This funding can be used for emergency operations centres, emergency operations training, emergency social services, evacuation route planning, flood risk assessment, flood mapping, flood mitigation plans, and structural flood mitigation. Council did our part, and supported the Langley Emergency Program’s request for this funding.

Langley City council dedicates a partition of the revenue the City receives from the casino for community grants. The following organizations and groups will receive grants this year:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

February 19, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Public meeting scheduled for proposed bingo hall at Cascades Casino

Langley City council was made aware via the local newspapers at the end of December that Gateway Casino & Entertainment was considering relocating Playtime Langley Bingo into Cascades Casino, replacing the Summit Theatre.

Proposed bingo hall at Cascades Casino. Select image to enlarge.

At the same time, Gateway is proposing to renovate the current convention space to “allow the ability to host live performances.” This would include modifying the ceiling of the current banquet hall to “allow for retractable sound and lighting; and the new configuration will allow for up to 600 guests, including those under the age of 19.”

More information on Gateway’s plan is included in the latest council agenda package.

Langley City council received a letter from BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC) in January. BCLC is responsible for casinos in our province. The letter stated the proposed addition of the bingo hall at Cascades Casino is a “substantial change” which requires the following steps to occur before the bingo hall can being operation:

  1. Consult with potentially affected local government.
  2. Receive adequate community input.
  3. Provide formal written approval to BCLC and the Gaming Enforcement Branch.
  4. Comply with the objection and non-binding dispute resolution process outlined within the Gaming Control Act.

On Monday night, Langley City council approved sending a letter to both Surrey and the Township of Langley informing them of the proposed “substantial change”. At the same time, council approved holding a public meeting on Monday, February 26 at 7:00pm at the Langley City Hall Council Chambers.

The public meeting agenda is proposed to be:

  1. Representatives from BCLC and Gateway Casino & Entertainment will each make a presentation to provide information regarding the proposed “substantial change” to accommodate the bingo facility.
  2. After the presentations, attendees will be provided with the opportunity to provide feedback and to ask questions regarding the proposed “substantial change.”

Yesterday, I posted about rezoning bylaws and proposed redevelopment projects. Tomorrow, I will post about the remaining items from Monday night’s council meeting.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

February 19, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Rezoning west of 200 Street, new build proposed at Langley Mall.

The area west of 198 Street between 53 Avenue and 56 Avenue has seen a significant amount of redevelopment over the last few years. At last night’s Langley City council meeting, there was a public hearing for a bylaw to rezone property located at the end of 55A Avenue to accommodate a 33 unit, 3-storey townhouse development as shown in the following rendering.

Proposed townhouse development at the end of 55A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

There were no comments from the public provided during the public hearing. After the public hearing, council asked some questions about the proposed site plan to the project proponent. One of the requirements of the City is the inclusion of a connection between 55A Avenue and the parallel lane north of 55A Avenue at 196 Street. This new connection will include a 2-metre sidewalk as well as a 6-metre roadway. The sound-wall along 196 Street will remain. All vehicle access to the proposed development will be via the lane.

Council gave third reading to the rezoning to accommodate this project.

Later during the meeting, Council gave first and second reading for two additional bylaws to accommodate rezoning for other townhouse projects in the area. One rezoning application was at 56 Avenue and 196 Street. The other was along the south-side of 55 Avenue near 198 Street. A public hearing for these bylaws will now be scheduled.

Proposed townhouse project at 56 Avenue and 196 Street. Select image to enlarge.

Proposed townhouse project at 55 Avenue and 198 Street. Select image to enlarge.

Back in the fall of 2012, the owner of Langley Mall proposed adding a new retail building at the northwest corner of their property. Because this is in Downtown, it required a development permit. It was never built. 6 years later, the owner of Langley Mall proposed a slightly modified version of the 2012 building. This required that council approve issuing a new development permit.

Rendering of proposed building located along Douglas Crescent at Langley Mall. Select image to enlarge.

One of the basic tenets of creating a walkable, vibrant downtown is that retail businesses must have their primary entrance directly from a street. One of my primary concerns was that the building would turn its back to the street, providing primary access via the parking lot. During the meeting, the proponent of the building stated that it is designed in such a way that primary pedestrian access could be provided from Douglas Crescent. I tried to impress upon the proponent the importance of ensuring that pedestrian access is provided directly off Douglas Crescent. This building will not include a drive thru.

There was a resident at the meeting who spoke against the proposed retail building, citing concerns about noise, drug-use, and homelessness. The resident was also concern about increased traffic. Council also had concerns about the traffic patterns in the mall creating a hazard for both people driving and walking.

Council approved issuing a development permit, but required that the proponent complete a traffic engineering assessment as a condition of its issuance.

Council also gave final reading to a bylaw to allow the reconfiguration of the cul-de-sac on 199A Street.

There were many other items that were addressed at Monday night’s council meeting which I will be posting about throughout this week.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Metro Conversations: The Future of Transportation

Metro Conversations - Conversation 5: February 27

Metro Conversations is back in New Westminster as part of Innovation Week which runs from February 23 to March 3.

Elon Musk’s bold vision of electric autonomous vehicles, cargo missions to Mars, and a network of high-speed underground Hyperloop tunnels promises a future free of traffic, free of drivers, and cities on Mars. Yet, what infrastructural and ethical considerations do cities and policymakers need to make to ensure that this transition is not only possible, but that nobody is left behind in this race to the future? Join us for the fifth conversation on the future of transportation.

Metro Conversations offers a unique format that bringing experts in the field together with citizens for two-way dialogue and discourse within a strict 1-hour time limit. Beyond a lecture, it is a sharing of ideas.

The free event will take place on Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00pm in room 417 at the Anvil Centre located at 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster. Doors open at 6:30pm and everyone is welcome.

Seating is limited, and it is recommended to register at the event’s Eventbrite page to help us manage seating.

For more information on Innovation Week, please check out: https://www.newwestcity.ca/innovation-week.

These on-going conversations are organized by Patrick Johnstone from New Westminster, Nathan Pachal from the City of Langley, Kiersten Duncan from the City of Maple Ridge, and Mathew Bond from the District of North Vancouver. These conversations are made possible with the generous support of SFU Public Square. This conversation would not be possible without the support of the City of New Westminster.

Reserve your seat at Eventbrite

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Development proposal to add more land into the Agricultural Land Reserve

When Agricultural Land Reserve and development application are used in the same paragraph, the word exclusion is almost always present. Over the years that I’ve been following the state of the ALR in the South of Fraser, land has been either taken out of the land reserve for urban development, or been used in such a way as to remove the potential for farming. An example of this would be the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

Development proposal located near 0 Avenue and 184th Street. Select image to enlarge.

A proposal by Hazelmere Golf & Tennis Club recently came before the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee. The proposed plan would see the following:

  • 41.9 acres of existing ALR land brought into agricultural production
  • 3.9 acres of land under BC Hydro Right of Way be included into the ALR
  • 20 acres of preserved and enhanced natural habitat and open space
  • 3 acres of new parks
  • 19.5 acres of existing golf course
  • 39.2 acre, 145-lot suburban single-family houses

The single-family housing area would be outside of the ALR, but would still require Surrey to rezone that area from “Agricultural” to “Suburban”. It would also require Metro Vancouver to change the regional zoning from “Rural” to “General Urban” in that area.

An argument could be make that this is essentially sprawl. What really set this proposal apart from other similar proposals —which have been approved in this part of our region in the past— is that ALR land will be expanded, enhanced, and brought into production.

The 41.9 acres of farmland, which is a significant parcel, is proposed to be transformed into a farming co-operative. The proponent is proposing to work with the Young Agrarians and their Land Matching Program to find suitable farmers. For the land that is outside of the ALR, about 30% will be preserved from development.

As development projects occurs at the edge of the ALR in our region, these projects should be required to contribute to making adjacent farmlands viable and productive. This proposed plan may be a good example of how these types of developments should occur.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Transit ridership growing faster than population in Metro Vancouver

Back in October, TransLink posted that they were seeing record-level growth in transit ridership in Metro Vancouver during the first half of 2017. With 2017 now a distant memory, full-year data has been released by the agency. The following table shows more detail on transit ridership in our region.

Year Boardings (Million) Percent Change
2017 406.84 5.7%
2016 384.3 -
2017 Boardings by Mode
Bus 247 3.2%
Expo/Millennium Lines 105 12%
Canada Line 46 6.3%
West Coast Express 2.32 -5.5%
SeaBus 5.84 7.3%

Not surprisingly, Expo and Millennium Line ridership saw double digit growth with the opening of the Evergreen Extension to Coquitlam. It was expected that some West Coast Express riders would switch to using SkyTrain as a result. West Coast Express ridership was down 5.5%.

Canada Line also saw strong ridership increases; TransLink increased peak hours service on the Canada Line in 2017.

SeaBus ridership peaked in 2010, and started a steady decline. In 2017, TransLink increased service frequent on the SeaBus. At the same time, there was strong growth in SeaBus ridership.

While bus service doesn’t capture the imagination of politicians, the media, or the general public as much as other modes of transit, over 60% of all transit ridership in our region is from bus service. Because of investments made due to the 10-Year Vision, and a strong economy, bus ridership also saw a strong increase in ridership.

Between 2016 and 2017, the population of Metro Vancouver grew about 1.1%. Transit ridership in our region grew 5.7%. This means that more people in our region are choosing to take transit to get around than over forms of travel. To put this into perspective, 14.3% of commuters used transit in 1996 in Metro Vancouver. In 2016, that number grew to 20.4%.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Newly restored Hunter Park in Picture

In the fall of 2016, Langley City staff discovered that Laminated Root Rot has spread to a significant number of trees in the Hunter Park area. Hunter Park is located near 200th Street at 45A Avenue. The park was acting like a mini-urban forest, but the root rot meant that the majority of trees had to be removed to prevent the disease from spreading, and to protect the safety of people and buildings in the area.

The Hunter Park Task Force was struck by the City. The task force included both City staff and local area residents who worked together to design a new Hunter Park. The task force approved a new design for the park at the beginning of April last year, with council approving the design at the end of April. Work started right away on restoring the park.

With the restoration of Hunter Park essentially complete, I recently visited the park. I took a few pictures which are below. While Hunter Park is not the same as it was, the newly restored park looks great, and should serve folks in the community well.

New Hunter Park entrance off 45A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

New grass area in the centre of Hunter Park. Select image to enlarge.

Information board along walking trail in Hunter Park. Select image to enlarge.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

February 5, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Smart City initiatives and traffic calming. Abbotsford leaving parks function of Metro Vancouver.

Over the past few days, I’ve been posting about Monday night’s council meeting including the committee of the whole to hear public feedback on the 2018-22 Financial Plan, and an update on Langley’s new Intensive Case Management Team which is working on getting people with substances use issues stabilized and housed. Today will be my final post about Monday’s meeting.

Rick Bomhof provided an update on the projects from the departments that he oversees. One of the larger initiatives is implementing traffic calming in speeding hot-spots in our community. Traffic calming is now being installed along 50th Avenue, including curb bulges in front of Conder Park. During the summer, there were several crashes in the area.

50th Avenue - Curb bulges in front of Conder Park. Select image to enlarge.

One of the buzz words going around is “Smart City”. This means using connected sensors to get real-time data about our city to help make better decisions. The City has been installing frost sensors in our streets. The latest batch were installed at 200th Street at 44th Avenue, and along the 5700 block of 198th Street. These sensors help the City know when crews need to provide winter maintenance for our roads, allowing the City to make more efficient use of crews as well as materials.

New Frost Sensors installed on 200th Street at 44th Avenue, and the 5700 block on 198th Street. Select image to enlarge.

City crews are busy installing water and sewer services for a new washroom at Penzer Park. Crews also recently installed a new water service to support the new Michaud Park Community Garden.

Other significant projects on-the-go include:

  • City Park Spray Park Expansion
  • 48 Avenue Sewer Replacement
  • Culvert Relining under Fraser Highway near Production Way, and under the Langley Bypass
  • Fraser Highway One-Way Redesign
  • Booster Pump Station Decommissions on 200th Street
  • SCADA System Upgrades (Supports Smart City)

Kim Hilton provided an update on recreation opportunities in our community. You can find out about these various actives, and signup online on the City’s recently redesigned website.

Later during the meeting, Council gave first, second and third reading to a bylaw to allow the reconfiguration of the cul-de-sac on 199A Street.

Plan for 199A Street cul-de-sac reconfiguration. Select image to enlarge.

Abbotsford is not in Metro Vancouver, but it is a participant in the parks function of the regional district for historical reasons. Abbotsford is looking to leave the parks function. This would see Matsqui Trail, Sumas Mountain Regional Parks, and the eastern portion of Glen Valley Regional Park being transferred to the City of Abbotsford. Two-thirds of Metro Vancouver regional district members must support this. Langley City council passed a motion in support of transition these parks to Abbotsford.

For non-profit societies to be able to conduct door-to-door canvassing, they need approval from council. Council approved door-to-door canvassing which will benefit: the Canadian Cancer Society, Word Vision, Red Cross, BC Children’s Hospital, and the World Wildlife Fund.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

February 5, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: ICM team getting people with substance use issues support and housing in Langley

Langley City council advocated to the provincial government for the past several years to get a specialized team together that can help people with substance use issues get support and housing on their road to recovery.

This fall, Fraser Health launched an Intensive Case Management team for Langley. The ICM team provides:

  • Substance use counselling and/or access to treatment
  • Housing brokerage and support
  • Daily living skills supports and skill building
  • Connections to primary, dental, and specialist care
  • Grocery shopping
  • Accessing vocational rehabilitation support
  • Connections to community resources
  • Transportation to appointments
  • Supporting and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, personal hygiene, short and long-term goal setting, and money management.

To aid the ICM team, BC Housing is providing 30 rent subsides.

At Monday night’s Langley City council meeting, Sanjeev Nand from Langley Community Services Society, and Corinne Blasius who is the program manager of the ICM team, provided an update on Langley’s new ICM team.

The following chart shows the number of people that have been referred to the ICM team. Currently, they have over 50 open files.

Number of community referrals to ICM team. Select image to enlarge.

One of the misconceptions in the community is that people who are being referred into the program, and need housing, are young. The ICM team has found that most of the people referred into the program are 45+.

Age of people referred to ICM team. Select image to enlarge.

The ICM team helps people that have substances use issues. Substances use issues and mental health issues are usually link, but that isn’t always the case. I asked how the ICM team helps people that don’t have a substance use issue. Council was told that they refer people to other programs for help.

One of the key things for me is to get people off the street and housed. In the last few months, the ICM team has worked to get four people housed throughout the community. One of the barriers to getting more people housed is waiting for the Quality Inn supportive housing facility to open in the Township of Langley.

Nand and Blasius stated that it would be irresponsible to house some people without the services that supportive housing provides such as “on-site, non-clinical supports, such as life-skills training, and connections to primary health care, mental health or substance use services.” BC Housing has more information on their website about what services are available at supportive housing facilities.

I also asked Blasius if 30 units of housing would be enough. Council was told that given the numbers of people referred to the program, they would likely need more units of supportive housing.

Getting people into supportive housing, and help with substance use issues, is the only way that we will be able to get people off the streets permanently. Council’s role will be to continue to be strong advocates for more supportive housing in Langley and our region, and to advocate to ensure that the ICM team has the resources they need.

Nand and Blasius concluded their presentation with several case studies of the people who the ICM team is helping. The following is one of the case studies:

Male, Early 40s

  • Divorced, father of two school aged children
  • Cocaine/crack use
  • Relocated to area to live closer to children, no community supports
  • Person with disabilities income of $600/month
  • Multiple physical diagnosis and prescribed medications
  • Was living in a barn
  • Now housed on a small hobby farm in a private residence
  • Substance use discontinued
  • Opportunity to earn small wage for part-time farm chores
  • Stabilized with ongoing support from ICM team

Tomorrow, I will be posting about the other remaining items that were covered at Monday night’s council meeting.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

February 5, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Public input on budget, plus information on property tax deferral

Last night, 20+ people attended the Langley City council meeting. At the beginning of the council meeting, a Committee of the Whole was held to allow people to provide their feedback on the proposed 2017-22 Financial Plan. Four people spoke.

People at last night's council meeting. Select image to enlarge.

The first speaker said that the City did not advertised the financial plan, or about opportunities for public input. He stated that he only saw one newspaper article.

While local government doesn’t control the media, there were three articles in the local papers. One article went live on the Langley Times on January 24, another on the Langley Advance on January 29, and a video about the open house on February 1 on the Langley Advance.

January 25 Langley Advance newspaper ad about Langley City Financial Plan public input opportunities. Select image to enlarge.

In addition, Langley City advertised in the Thursday, January 25 edition of the Langley Advance, on the City’s website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Local governments are legally required to engage with the public during the budget process.

Another of his concerns was about the increase in RCMP policing costs which account for about 45% of property tax. I’m also concerned about why local government is responsible for policing costs given our minimal control of policing services.

The additional three residents that spoke were concerned that fixed-income seniors who have lived in single-family homes long-term, would no longer be able to afford to live in Langley City due to the rapid increase in their home values.

If you do own your house; are over the age of 55, a surviving spouse of any age, or a person with disabilities; you can defer your property tax up to 75% of the equity of your home. If you ever sell your home or transfer ownership, the deferred tax becomes due. Given the rise of home values in our region, most long-term residents would be able to defer property taxes for the remainder of their lives, and still have extra equity.

The average property tax increase for single-family homes is $45 this year.

Other general comments were that council needs to ensure that there is no “fluff” in the budget.

Council gave third reading to the proposed 2018-22 Financial Plan. Council will vote on adopting the financial plan at the February 19 council meeting.

For more information on the financial plan, please read my previous posts on the operating budget and capital works program.

Tomorrow, I will be posting about other items that were covered at the meeting.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Langley City Citizen Rhys Griffiths Passes Away

I met Rhys Griffiths for the first time around ten years ago on the Langley City Parks, Environment, Recreation and Cultural Committee. It was my first time on a City committee, and Rhys stood out. He was passionately talking about trees being inappropriately planted in the floodplain. I knew in an instant that this person was a strong advocate for the Nicomekl Floodplain, Brydon Lagoon, and Langley.

He knew pretty much every square inch on the floodplain; he represented the Langley Field Naturalists well. At the Parks meetings, he would regularly call out areas where he thought the City could do better to protect the floodplain. He was not afraid to take you to task! He was also willing to be a part of the solution. I learned more about our parks in those meeting from Rhys than from any other source. My passion for the floodplain, and our parks system in general, is directly attributed to Rhys.

Brydon Lagoon

I am almost certain that Brydon Lagoon would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for Rhys’ tireless advocacy for this special place in our community. Even though Rhys was already retired from the Parks Committee, he made special appearances for the Brydon Lagoon Task Force in 2014/15. Honestly, Brydon Lagoon should be called Griffiths Lagoon.

Rhys cared about people too. Rhys encouraged me to get more involved in Langley City, and supported me during my run for Langley City council. He would call me regularly, checking up on how I was doing, and would give me the latest news about the lagoon.

This weekend, Rhys passed away at the age of 94. There are some people who exemplify what it means to be a citizen in a community. Rhys was one of those people. He will be greatly missed in our community. I will miss him.

The Langley Times and Langley Advance both have stories about Rhys.

A celebration of life for Rhys will be held at St. George’s Anglican Church in Fort Langley at 2pm on Saturday, February 10.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Climate 2050: Adapting to climate change; reducing greenhouse gas emissions

The earth’s climate is changing. For our cities, regions, and society to survive these changes, we will have to adapt. The Metro Vancouver Regional District is internationally known for creating long-term plans and policies that are for the most part actionable and successful in meeting their objectives. The regional district is now in the process of creating Climate 2050, a climate action strategy for Metro Vancouver. This long-term plan will address both ways to adapt to climate change, and how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is already occurring due to an increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. In Metro Vancouver, this means we will see warmer temperatures, longer summer dry spells, wetter falls and winters, more extreme precipitation events, decreased snowpack, and sea level rise.

What does this mean for our region and its economy?

Anticipated Climate Impacts in the 2050s in Metro Vancouver. Select graphic to enlarge.

Drinking water supply and demand: Reduced snowpack and hotter, drier summers could put strain on the existing water supply during times of the year when temperatures are high and water is in greatest demand. The risk of landslides affecting water quality in supply reservoirs may increase due to extreme precipitation events.

Sewerage and drainage: Wastewater treatment facilities will be impacted by higher influent volumes and sea level rise, increasing energy required for pumping. Sewers near the Fraser River and the ocean will be at risk of flooding due to sea level rise. Infrastructure will need to be upgraded to maintain current expectations of drainage and flood protection.

Ecosystems and agriculture: As the climate shifts, it will disrupt the fragile equilibrium in our natural environment. The plants, trees, and animals within the ecosystems that have historically thrived in our region will be impacted.

Air quality and human health: Increases in the number, extent and duration of wildfires will impact air quality in the Lower Fraser Valley. Air pollution expected in the Metro Vancouver region will include smoke from distant fires, and increases in ground-level ozone. Health impacts related to heat stress will also increase in a population not accustomed to higher temperatures.

Buildings and energy systems: Increasing summer heat will increase cooling requirements for occupied buildings, and therefore electricity demand. This in turn will impact the provincial energy infrastructure, which is designed for peak winter demand. Energy efficiency and passive cooling will become increasingly important in buildings, and the business case to build and retrofit to high efficiency standards will improve.

Transportation, recreation and tourism: Warmer winters and less frost may improve road safety and increase the opportunities to walk or cycle year round. However, warmer temperatures will mean less snow in the local mountains, which is a concern for the winter sport recreation industry.

In order to prevent more extreme impacts due to climate change, the following graphic shows the reduction in GHG emissions that must occur by 2050.

Getting to 80% reducing in GHG emissions by 2050 in Metro Vancouver. Select chart to enlarge.

The regional district is now in the process of engaging with stakeholders. Based on those results, Metro Vancouver staff will start the process of developing the actual long-term plan. The Climate 2050 long-term plan is expected to be completed at the end of this year.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Budget infographic released; open house set for tonight, plus other ways to provide feedback on 2018 Langley City budget

Earlier this month, I posted about the proposed 2018 Langley City Financial Plan including highlights from the operating budget as well as the capital works budget.

Langley City staff will be hosting an open house tonight at City Hall where you will be able to ask questions directly to the folks that put together the financial plan. I also plan on stopping by the open house near the beginning. The details are as follows:

Date: January 31, 2018
Time: 6:00pm -7:30pm
Location: Langley City Hall Finance Department Foyer
20399 Douglas Crescent

City staff have also created two infographics that provide a high-level overview of the financial plan, including the changes in property taxes over the last four years.

2018 Financial Plan Infographic - Property Tax. Select graphic to enlarge.

The infographic clearly shows that policing is the largest expense in our community. As the RCMP provides policing services to our community, local property taxes pay for 90% of the cost to provide policing while the federal government pays 10%. Municipalities with their own police forces pay generally more for the same level of service.

2018 Financial Plan Infographic - Expenses. Select graphic to enlarge.

I believe that we have a good relationship with the RCMP. The official powers of local governments when it comes to poling is pretty much to set the number of RCMP members. Considering that police enforce federal and provincial laws, and considering the limited role that local governments play in policing, I find it interesting that the provincial government mandates that municipalities with populations over 5,000 pay for policing costs.

Water, sewer, and drainage expenses are a distance second and third respectively as shown in the infographic.

You can also provide feedback by emailing info@langleycity.ca. There will be another opportunity to provide feedback at the next council meeting which is scheduled for:

Date: February 5, 2018
Arrive by: 7:00pm
Location: Langley City Hall Council Chambers
20399 Douglas Crescent

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January 29, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Rezoning Requests West of 200th Street

Monday night’s Langley City council meeting started with a public hearing for a proposed rezoning at the corner of Brydon Crescent and 199A Street to accommodate a 77-unit, four-storey apartment building. This area west of 200th Street has seen a significant amount of redevelopment activity over the last few years.

The proponent of the project presented an overview of the building and its landscaping. As is standard, the developer will be responsible for improving the sidewalk and street around the proposed project. This includes the City’s new standard for curb extensions which improves visibility for all road users and lowers speeds at intersections, reducing collisions and near-misses between people walking and driving.

Proposed site plan, including street design, for Brydon Crescent apartment project. Select image to enlarge.

On-street parking will also be accommodated via parking pockets to clearly delineate parking areas. On the topic of parking, the proposed apartment building will also include 10 EV charging stations in the underground lot.

Because of poor soil conditions in some parts of the City, most underground parking in not flush with the sidewalk. Some apartment buildings present a concrete wall to the street as a result. This project will include a landscaped, terraced design which will result in a better public realm.

Proposed apartment project at 19941, 19943, 19951 & 5444 Brydon Crescent/5461 199A Street. Select image to enlarge.

There was one person at the public hearing who was concerned about development proposals generally in the area. He was concerned about buildings not having enough on-site parking, leading to parking spill-over onto the street. He was also concerned that there was not enough affordable housing in the community.

For 30 years, there was no on-street parking around the apartment building that I live in. On-street parking was recently introduced a month ago. The new on-street parking in now well used. Free on-street parking is like free beer, you can never provide enough. To learn more read, “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

Council gave third reading to the rezoning after the public hearing. Council also gave first and second reading to another proposed rezoning at the end of 55A Avenue, near 196 Street. This will allow for a public hearing to be scheduled for that request.

Proposed townhouse project located at 19607, 19619, 19629, 19649 & 19655 55A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Near the end of the meeting, Council approved two out-of-province training requests for staff members to attend the Pacific Northwest Resource Management School, and 2018 National Planning Conference.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Non-residential ownership of apartments in double digits

Many people believe that foreign ownership of residential property is one of the causes of the current housing crises in our region. In 2016, the provincial government responded with a 15% additional property transfer tax for foreign nationals and foreign corporations that purchase property in Metro Vancouver. The impact of the tax can be seen on single-family housing, but it has appeared to have had a much more limited impact on the apartments and townhouses.

Statistics Canada recently release information on who owns what types of housing in Canada based on type of housing, and whether the owner is a resident of Canada.

The following table shows the percentage of housing owned by non-resident owners by housing type. I've included the regional, as well as City of Vancouver and Langley City figures.

Non-Resident Ownership by property type. Single-attached housing includes row houses and townhouses. Source: CANSIM Table 035-0005.

While there has been much focus around single-family housing unaffordability and foreign ownership, non-residential ownership of apartments is more significant, as has been their rapid appreciation over the last year.

Price Index for Lower Mainland - Three Year Trend. Source: Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

It is not surprising that non-resident ownership is higher in the City of Vancouver than Langley City. There is no doubt in my mind that housing prices in the City of Vancouver are causing an upward pressure on housing prices in the rest of the region.

Housing exists along a continuum, with shelters and supportive housing on one end, and market-priced housing on the other end. If the rapid increase of pricing for all types of housing in our region continues, new residents of our region, and many in my generation, will not be able to purchase market housing in any form without significant changes in housing polices by the federal and provincial governments.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Discover the perfect day in Langley City

Last week, someone asked me what they should do when they were visiting Langley City. Of course, I gave them my suggestions which included checking out Downtown Langley, but you no longer have to take it from me that Langley City is the place to be.

Hotelier in our community voted this summer to form a destination marketing organization for Langley City. The City, though an RFP process, selected the Downtown Langley Business Association to be the organization responsible for delivering tourism services on behalf of the hotelier.

Today marks the official launch of Discover Langley City. Their newly launched website includes information on upcoming events, and itineraries to help plan a day or evening in our community. One of the big focuses is on local food, especially in “Restaurant Row” along Fraser Highway.

If you are local, you might even discover a thing or two that you didn’t know you could do in our community. It is really amazing what you can pack into 10 square kilometres!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Save the Date: Let's Talk Seniors Housing

I received an invitation to attend a town hall about seniors housing matters that I thought I would pass along.

Date: Wednesday, February 21
Time: 1:00pm to 3:30pm (Doors open at 12:30pm)
Location: Hope Community Church
18625 Fraser Highway, Surrey
Moderator: John Aldag, MP for Cloverdale-Langley City

The event is organized by Cloverdale-Langley City Seniors Group, and they are inviting “anyone wishing to explore possibilities and collaborations to ensure affordable, accessible, appropriate housing options for seniors” to attend.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mobility pricing plan needs regional fairness to succeed

Last fall, the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission was launched at the behest of the Mayors’ Council on Transportation. The mandate of the commission is to recommend mobility pricing options that will:

Reduce traffic congestion on roads and bridges across the region, so people and goods can keep moving and businesses can thrive and be competitive.

Promote fairness to address concerns around our long-standing approach to tolling some roads and bridges but not others.

Support transportation investment to improve the current transportation system in Metro Vancouver for all users.

The commission was launched because there is currently a $60 million to $80 million funding gap in the 10-Year Transportation Vision for our region to pay for needed transit upgrades, new rapid transit lines, regional road improvements, and active transportation infrastructure. This funding gap is nothing new; local governments and the province have been at an impasse for close to 20 years on how to provide stable, long-term funding for regional transportation in our region.

The Mobility Pricing Commission recently released a report on the public engagement they recently completed around mobility pricing. The following shows the level of support for answers to the question What does fairness mean to you?

I think it should cost less to drive in areas that have fewer transit options. 58% Support

I think people with lower income should pay less. 40% Support

I think people should pay more to drive in and out of downtown areas. 35% Support

I think people should pay more to drive in congested areas. 35% Support

I think people should pay more to drive at busy times of day. 34% Support

I think people should pay based on how many kilometres they drive. 32% Support

The commission also asked people in our region what their priorities for transportation investment should be:

Improvements to transit should be a priority. 85% Support

Affordable transit fares should be a priority. 71% Support

Improvements to roads and bridges should be a priority. 68% Support

Addressing transportation pollution should be a priority. 56% Support

Reducing driving costs (i.e. insurance, parking fees, fuel taxes) should be a priority. 44% Support

Better walking and cycling options should be a priority. 44% Support

Based on the results of the public engagement, and their mandate, the commission will now be studying the following options:

Congestion point charges, which is an umbrella term including system of point charges (which involves charging vehicles when passing a defined point or location, like a busy section of road, a bridge, or tunnel), and cordon charges (which involves charging vehicles when passing through entries and/or exits to and from a defined area)

Distance-based charges varying by time and location (i.e. some locations and times could have a higher $/km charge at busy times of day)

It’s clear to see that people are very interested in seeing investments made in public transit, as there is near universal support. Where the commission has their work cut out for them is to get the public on-board, linking mobility pricing, transit investments, and congestion reduction.

In my opinion, the “distance-based charges” option has too many political and technical hurdles to overcome for it to be a viable option today. With the removal of the tolls this fall on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges, congestion increased in the South of Fraser. Linking “congestion point charges” to reducing congestion is an easier case to make.

The big question that the commission will have to answer is around fairness. Is charging a toll to cross the Granville Street Bridge as fair as charging a toll to cross the Port Mann Bridge? In order for the commission to get buy-in, the majority of people in Metro Vancouver will have to see how they will benefit from mobility pricing.

I look forward to seeing the results from the next phase of the Independent Commission’s investigation.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Langley City Safe Streets Survey Results

During the holidays, I asked folks in Langley City to complete a survey about their opinions on changes to the road network in our community, and what they would like to see in the future.

Over two hundred responses were received from a geographically-representative sample of our community. I should note that age, income, and other demographics were not factored into the results.

Option A

I asked people, considering the following image, where would they support a similar street design?

Option A. Select image to enlarge. Source: https://streetmix.net/-/558856

The clear majority of survey respondents supported this design. I have provided the results based on the whole community, and by whether respondents lived in the more single-family South of the Nicomekl, or higher-density North of Nicomekl.

Option A: All Langley City. Select chart to enlarge.

The top four choices for all survey respondents were:
Fraser Highway
206th Street, Near Douglas Park
Grade Crescent
56th Avenue, West of 200th Street

Option A: South of Nicomekl. Select chart to enlarge.

The top four choices for survey respondents living South of the Nicomekl were:
Grade Crescent
56th Avenue, West of 200th Street
Fraser Highway
206th Street, Near Douglas Park

Option A: North of Nicomekl. Select chart to enlarge.

The top four choices for survey respondents living North of the Nicomekl were:
Fraser Highway
206th Street, Near Douglas Park
56th Avenue, West of 200th Street
Glover Road, South of the Langley Bypass

Option B

I asked people, considering the following image, where would they support a similar street design?

Option B. Select image to enlarge. Source: Global Street Design Guide

Again, the clear majority of survey respondents supported this design. I have provided the results based on the whole community, and by whether respondents lived in the more single-family South of the Nicomekl, or higher-density North of Nicomekl.

Option B: All Langley City. Select chart to enlarge.

The top four choices for all survey respondents were:
Fraser Highway
206th Street, Near Douglas Park
56th Avenue, West of 200th Street
Glover Road, South of the Langley Bypass

Option B: South of Nicomekl. Select chart to enlarge.

The top four choices for survey respondents living South of the Nicomekl were:
Fraser Highway
Glover Road, South of the Langley Bypass
Grade Crescent
56th Avenue, West of 200th Street

Option B: North of Nicomekl. Select chart to enlarge.

The top four choices for survey respondents living North of the Nicomekl were:
Fraser Highway
206th Street, Near Douglas Park
56th Avenue, West of 200th Street
Glover Road, South of the Langley Bypass

Other Results

Example walkway in Langley City. Select image to enlarge.

One of the other questions asked was would you support enhancing lighting in walkways? The near universal response was yes.

I also asked people to think about the changes made on 203rd Street and 53rd Avenue. Two things stood out. People preferred sidewalk-level bike lanes over on-street bike lanes. People also provided suggestions on ways that designs could be improved.

The area of concern for people who completed the survey was around road narrowing. There were two broad areas of concern: safety and congestion.

Some of the people who responded to the survey were concerned that the changes made would lead to more congestion. On 203rd Street, traffic volume could increase by more than 100% during the busiest times of day without causing congestion. On 53rd Avenue, traffic could increase by 200% during the busiest times of day without causing congestion based on recent traffic counts.

While it is counterintuitive, narrower urban roads are safer than wider urban roads. Early last year, I posted about research done in Toronto that validates this. I’ve also included a video which further explains why this is the case.

Thanks again to everyone that took time to complete the survey.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

January 15, 2018 Council Meeting Notes: Project updates, events, and activities

Over the last few days, I’ve posted some highlights about the operating budget and capital works program from the 2018 Langley City Financial Plan that was presented at Monday night’s council meeting. Today, I will cover the other remaining significant items that were on the council agenda.

Because of the mild climate in Metro Vancouver, City crews can continue working on renewing infrastructure, and enhancing our parks. Rick Bomhof provided an update on some of the projects that the departments he leads are working on.

Work continues on enhancements to Penzer Park. A new picnic shelter was recently completed.


New Penzer Park Picnic Shelter. Select image to enlarge.

Phase 1 of traffic calming has also been completed around Linwood Park, including the installation of temporary measures to make the intersection of 201 A Street & Michaud Crescent safer. Phase 2 will see a polka dot painted design added to the temporary traffic islands, as well as painted triangles on the speed tables. This will be done when the weather is dry and above 10° Celsius.

Michaud Crescent Traffic Calming. Select image to enlarge.

Other projects recently completed where water connections along 56 Avenue and 200 Street to the recently renewed watermain in the area. Also, new playground features were added to Rotary Centennial Park.

Other projects on the go include:

  • New Penzer Park washroom
  • Spray park expansion at City Park
  • 48 Avenue sewer replacement near 210 Street
  • Relining culverts along Fraser Highway, under the rail tracks at Production Way
  • Relining culverts along the Langley Bypass
  • Launch of a concept design for a renewed Fraser Highway One-Way
  • Water booster pump station decommission on 200 Street
  • Upgrade to City utilities control and monitoring system

Afterwards, Kim Hilton provided an overview of the recreation programs and events from the departments that she leads. There are a variety of activities for people of all ages in our community, please visit the City’s website for a list of recreation options, community events, and youth events & programs.

I wanted to highlight that on Family Day, there will be special events at Timms Community Centre between 11:30am and 2:30pm.

Council also gave first and second reading to a proposed apartment project located at Brydon Crescent and 199 A Street. This will allow a public hearing to be scheduled.

Rendering of proposed apartment project from the south-west corner of Brydon Crescent. Select image to enlarge.

Council also received reports on the activities completed by the Community Day Committee, Magic of Christmas Parade Committee, and Youth Committee. Council authorized the Deputy Director of Development Services & Economic Development to attend the Canadian Institute of Planners Annual Conference.

Council also passed a motion asking for 50% of the provincial share of the cannabis tax to be provided to local governments as we are responsible for local policing, and bylaw enforcement.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Langley City 2018 Proposed Budget Part 2: Capital Works

Yesterday, I posted about the operating budget component of Langley City’s proposed 2018 Financial Plan which was introduced at Monday night’s council meeting. Today, I will be highlighting certain aspects of the proposed capital works portion of the 2018 Financial Plan.

This year, the City is proposing to invest $11.8 million back into the community. The focus areas of the capital works program are enhancing the parks and recreation system, and renewing infrastructure.

Summary of 2018 Capital Improvement Plan. Select table to enlarge.

Some of the major projects proposed for funding this year include:

Parks

  • $1 million for City Park to start implementing its master plan which was adopted in 2016
  • $620,000 to upgrade playground equipment at various parks throughout the community
  • $300,000 for renewing pedestrian bridges in the floodplain

Renewing Infrastructure

  • $1.5 million to restore the Logan Creek culverts under the Langley Bypass
  • $1.3 million to replace water and sewer lines, enhance lighting, and resurface Douglas Crescent between 206 Street and 208 Street
  • $250,000 for erosion control along the Nicomekl River
  • $640,000 to resurface 56 Avenue between Production Way and 200 Street
  • $300,000 to start the process of renewing the Fraser Highway one-way section
  • $600,000 for traffic signal replacement
  • $510,000 for a new multi-use pathway along Duncan Way
  • $300,000 for street light replacement and LED lighting upgrades
  • $250,000 for a sidewalk along 46A Avenue
  • $100,000 for traffic calming

The capital works program is funded through a combination of casino revenue, property tax, developer-paid charges, and with the help of other orders of government.

While the majority of casino revenue is invested into capital works, a small portion of it is set aside to invest into building the social capital of our community. The proposed 2018 budget includes $608,565 in community funding. The following are some of the major initiatives funded:

  • $206,140 for ice user subsidy at Twin Rinks
  • $50,000 for LEPS Summer Youth Employment program
  • $30,000 for Grade 5 swim program
  • $30,000 for parks cleanup program
  • $44,425 for McBurney Summer Series events
  • $80,000 for other special events

For a full list of projects that are proposed to be funded in 2018, please visit the City’s website. An open house on the 2018 Financial Plan is scheduled for January 31 between 6:00pm and 7:30pm at City Hall.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Langley City 2018 Proposed Budget Part 1: Operating

Monday night was the first Langley City council meeting of 2018. The first and second reading of the City’s 2018 Financial Plan was the primary item on the agenda. Today’s post will highlight some of the operating portions of the budget, and tomorrow’s post will focus on the capital works portion of the budget.

The 2018 Financial Plan is focused on four main areas: improving public safety, addressing homelessness, enhancing the parks and recreation system, and renewing infrastructure.

The operating budget is proposed to increase by $1.27 million in 2018. Around half of this increase is driven by critical public safety services, and to address homelessness in our community.

RCMP policing costs are budgeted to increase by $539,250. Fire Services wages and benefits are budgeted to increase by $279,065.

The City’s Bylaw enforcement department also grew by one person this year which required a $38,630 increase in the proposed 2018 budget. Security costs at Timms Community Centre is also proposed to increase by $32,245 to ensure that it remains a safe space.

To address on-going cleanup costs relating to homeless camps in our community, the budget for camp cleanup costs is proposed to increase by $30,000.

The new Timms Community Centre is well used. With increased programming, the budget for recreation services is proposed to increase by $84,990. The new Penzer Action Park has also been well received in the community. The budget to maintain that park is proposed to increase by $28,320.

A new Facilities Maintenance Worker position is being proposed to ensure that City facilities remain in a good state of repair.

Wages and benefits for municipal employees is budgeted to increase by $356,135, and council remuneration is budgeted to increase by $105,605. Employee wage and benefit increases are driven primarily by collective agreements, and contract requirements.

The following table provides an overview of the 2018 Financial Plan. A full list of larger changes in the proposed budget can be found on page 5 of the 2018 Financial Plan.

Langley City 2018 Consolidation Financial Plan Summary. Select table to enlarge.

At the end of the day, the proposed budget will require a 4.94% residential property tax increase. As I posted about earlier this month, this increase will not be distributed evenly due to how the BC property tax system works. Some people may see a property tax decrease while others may see a larger increase.

The following table shows the changes in property tax of an average multifamily home over the last five years.

Year Assessment Taxes Change
2014 $206,029 $1,275
2015 $200,656 $1,238 -$37
2016 $205,161 $1,209 -$29
2017 $249,849 $1,236 $27
2018 $327,350 $1,366 $130
Increase $91

The proposed operating portion of the 2018 budget will help support to improve the quality of life for people who call Langley City home. You can provide feedback on the proposed budget by visiting the City’s website. There will also be an open house at City Hall on January 31.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Park Once, Walk Everywhere: Designing Parking to Support Walkability

One of the keys to creating a successful, walkable downtown is to design the area so you only have to park your vehicle once. These types of areas generally require on-street parking, parkades, and other shared facilities to handle parking demand. On-site parking for specific sites is not prioritized, or is actively discouraged through zoning.

The Langley Bypass is an example of how providing on-site parking for each business does not create a walkable area. In contrast Downtown Langley, especially around the Fraser Highway one-way, relies more on shared parking facilities and on-street parking.

For an interesting blogpost on specific parking policies to support walkable areas, I suggest reading “Walkable Parking: How to Create Park-Once-and-Walk Districts” by Paul Barter.

This weekend, I was in Downtown Kelowna. Downtown Kelowna consists of mostly low- and mid-rise buildings. Providing on-site parking to meet all the needs for these types of buildings would have resulted in large surface parking lots. Requiring low- and mid-rise, mixed-use buildings to include underground parking would have actively discouraged redevelopment.

The City of Kelowna manages three parkades in Downtown Kelowna, on-street parking, and some surface parking lots. They also have implemented a wayfinding system to encourage long-term parking in parkades. These parkades include on-street displays which show the amount of parking available in each facility.

Memorial Parkade including green, dynamic available parking sign. Parkade includes street front office space. Select image to enlarge.

Poorly designed parkades can degrade the walkability of an area. This is not the case for the two most recent parkades built in Downtown Kelowna. They include active street fronts with parking access from the side of the structures, not the front.

The following picture shows a new restaurant that is being opened in one of the parkades nearest the central library branch in Downtown Kelowna.

Library Plaza Parkade includes ground-level retail. Select image to enlarge.

Walkable areas require people who drive to these areas to park once for the day. This means that people must be able to leave their cars parked for as long as they want. Currently, this is not possible in Downtown Langley.

Given the successful transformation of Downtown Kelowna over the last decade, I believe that a parkade would be beneficial in Downtown Langley. Building a parkade would not only support the park-once model, but it would also facilitate more ground-level retail redevelopment projects in our downtown core.