Thursday, February 14, 2019

Langley City 2019 Budget: Helping to increase safety, address social matters, and keep our parks and streets in a state of good repair

During the election campaign, and over my last term on council, there were common themes that I heard from residents in our community. They wanted Langley City to reduce property crime, address homelessness, and continue investing in our parks and streets. While we need the federal and provincial governments to partner with us to address some of the more complex social challenges in our community, the proposed 2019 budget addresses these themes heard. I wanted to highlight some of the proposed service level increases, and their annualized costs, found in the Langley City 2019-2023 Financial Plan.

Langley City budget presentation

Safety

Bylaw Officer - $90,000
Will allow the hiring of an additional bylaw enforcement officer to provide additional enforcement to support the growing community, and to address matters relating to camping in our parks.

Vandalism\Wire Theft - $30,000
Will allow the City to address the increased cost of cleanup and repairs due to vandalism and wire theft.

Additional Firefighters - $456,130
Will allow the hiring of 3 additional firefighters to increase the number of fire prevention inspections and enhance daytime emergency response.

Social

Recreation Office Supervisor - $73,400
Will allow for the Director of Recreation, Culture, and Community Services to focus on cultural planning and on developing programs that address the complex social needs of people who live in Langley City.

Community Outreach Facilitator - $48,300
Will allow the City to partner with the federal and provincial governments, and social service agencies, to address matters around: aging population, diversity and multiculturalism, new immigrant support services, inclusion, participation and social connectedness, and homelessness.

Building Maintenance Position Upgrade - $12,800
Will allow for the Timms Community Centre to remain in a state of good repair.

Parks and Streets

Enhanced Park Maintenance - $45,000
Will allow the City to keep parks up to standard including grass mowing and landscape maintenance.

Enhanced Tree Maintenance - $100,500
Will allow the City to address the increases in requests for service to address matters relating to trees, and help ensure that the City’s increasing tree inventory remains healthy.

Planning for the Future

Planning Assistant - $90,500
Will support the implementation of Langley City’s Nexus Community Vision.

Infrastructure Levy - $75,000
Will help ensure that the City’s aging infrastructure can remain in a good state of repair.

Unlike the federal and provincial governments, local governments are not allowed to run deficit budgets. To help increase safety, address the social challenges in our community, enhance our parks and streets, provide more recreation and event opportunities, plan for the future, and keep our infrastructure in a state of good replace, a property tax increase is required.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

February 11, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Engineering projects on-the go to improve walking, cycling, and transit infrastructure

Because of the mostly mild weather this winter, Langley City public works projects have been proceeding throughout our community. Langley City council received an engineering department update at its Monday night meeting about what was on-the-go.

Rogers Hometown Hockey was a well attended event in our community this January. Behind the scenes, Langley City staff were working hard to ensure that this event went flawlessly. There was a significant portion of our Downtown that was closed to motor vehicle traffic. The traffic management plan was completed in-house by City staff and worked well.

There are many sections of Langley City that were built during a period of time when little thought was given to making walkable communities; there are sections of our community with no sidewalks for example. Today, we are correcting this oversight by slowly completing our sidewalk network. One project that was recent completed was the installation of a new sidewalk along 46 A Avenue, off 208 Street. The completion of this project has been well received, and the City has received positive comments from members of the community about this change.

Work is continuing for adding sidewalks in the Duncan Way Industrial Area. A multi-use trail along Duncan Way was completed late last year which connects from Glover Road to the 204 Street overpass. Work is currently underway to add a sidewalk in the rest of this area.

Just an important as building out a cycling network is to ensure that there are places to park bikes. While there are currently some bike racks in the Downtown Core, Langley City will be installing an additional 12 new bike racks in the area.

As our community and region grows, the number of people travelling around will continue to increase. Widening roads have been shown to be ineffective in reducing congestion. People need fast, safe, and convenient ways to get out of congestion instead. As part of improving transit service in Langley City, in partnership with TransLink, transit-only lanes will be coming to certain sections of our community. This will help speed up travel for transit riders, making it a more appealing travel option.

As part of the reconstruction of 203 Street between Fraser Highway and Logan Avenue, transit-only lanes will be installed. In addition, the sewer line will also be upgrades as well as a new traffic signal will be installed at Industrial Avenue.

Wire theft is on the rise in Langley City. This is costly to repair, so the City is starting to rollout the installation of deterrents to try to combat this increase in theft.

Wire Theft Deterrent Device. Select image to enlarge.

Langley City council increased the funding a few years back to help ensure that our streetscape remains in a good state of repair. The following picture shows some work done to ensure that a stop sign remains visible.

Boulevard Maintenance - Tree Trimming. Select image to enlarge.

Other projects on-the-go include:

  • Developing the Michaud Crescent Greenway Design
  • Developing the Grade Crescent Design
  • Updating the subdivision and development bylaw
  • Upgrading water mains along 197A Street, south of 46 Avenue; and, Fraser Highway, between the Langley Bypass and Landmark Way.

Later during the meeting, council approved our CAO Francis Cheung to attend “the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators Annual Conference and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference in Quebec City, Quebec from May 26 to May 30, 2019 and from May 30 to June 2, 2019 respectively.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

February 11, 2019 Council Meeting Notes: Public Hearing for Redevelopment Proposals and Funding Community Amenities

Last night’s Langley City council meeting started with a public hearing for three different bylaws around development.

As I posted about previously, there is a proposed bylaw which would allow for a 5-storey, 104-unit apartment building located in the 199A Street cul-de-sac off Brydon Crescent to be constructed. The project’s proponent noted some of the proposed features of the building at the public hearing including a terraced concrete foundation to reduce the building’s perceived height. Also, all underground parking spots will be roughed-in to accommodate electric vehicles.

Renders of proposed apartment project at 5470, 5480, 5490, 5500, 5510 199A Street. Select image to enlarge.

As a condition of a subdivision or building permit to be issued, Langley City imposes Development Cost Charges. While these charges are mandatory, they are very restrictive in how they can be used under BC law. As part of a rezoning application, the City also negotiates Community Amenity Charges with developers to help provide additional required amenities beyond what can be funded via Development Cost Charges. The currently policy is set at $2,000 per multi-family residential unit approved to help mitigate the impacts of the development.

In this proposed development, in addition to contributing $208,000 as per council policy, the project’s proponent is contributing $200,000 to help fund a pedestrian bridge as shown on the following map which will link Brydon Crescent with our trail network.

Location of proposed bridge connecting Brydon Crescent to the trail network. Select map to enlarge.

Some of the issues that council hears regularly from residents about at public hearings are around construction traffic and parking. The project’s proponent submitted a traffic management plan to help mitigate these issues.

At the public hearing, there was one resident who expressed some concern about parking for visitor who have larger pickup trucks, and the need for more affordable housing in general.

The second proposed bylaw at the public hearing would accommodate at 4-storey, 14-unit stacked townhouse complex. This is a new concept in Langley City which you can read more about in a previous post. Council received a writing letter from an individual who was generally concerned about higher-density development. This proposed project will also have a traffic management plan.

Renders of proposed stacked townhouse project at 20172 - 20178 53A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

The final bylaw on the agenda of the public hearing was to remove a land-use contract from the property located at 5139 209A Street. Land-use contracts were planning tools used in the 1970s that are no longer used. The owner of this property has a pending request to our Board of Variance for a setback relaxation. This request cannot more forward until the land-use contract is removed/discharged. There were no members of the community that spoke to this matter. Later during the council meeting, third reading was given by council to discharge the land-use contract.

Tomorrow, I’ll be continuing to post about Monday night’s council meeting.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Policing expenditure increases, prevention, and Langley City’s proposed budget

Over the next little while, I will be posting about Langley City’s 2019 – 2023 Financial Plan and budget. Policing expenditures are a significant partition of our City’s budget, and this has been the case for at least a decade.

The following table shows the increase is property tax budgeted from 2009 until this year.

Year Budgeted Percent Change
2019 $29,191,145.00 7.66%
2018 $27,113,085.00 5.46%
2017 $25,710,425.00 4.73%
2016 $24,549,430.00 4.18%
2015 $23,565,270.00 3.42%
2014 $22,785,750.00 4.25%
2013 $21,856,465.00 3.03%
2012 $21,214,045.00 2.96%
2011* $20,603,182.00 3.26%
2010 $19,952,130.00 5.83%
2009 $18,852,505.00 0.00%

The next table shows the increase in policing expenditures over the same period.

Year Police Expenditures† Percentage of Budget
2019 $12,907,040.00 44.22%
2018 $12,261,750.00 45.22%
2017 $11,725,840.00 45.61%
2016 $11,023,910.00 44.90%
2015 $10,596,570.00 44.97%
2014 $10,317,425.00 45.28%
2013 $10,065,385.00 46.05%
2012 $9,589,110.00 45.20%
2011* $8,427,799.00 40.91%
2010 $8,715,645.00 43.68%
2009 $8,357,740.00 44.33%

Policing expenditures have consistently used around 45% of property tax revenue received. In fact, policing costs are proposed to increase by $0.6 million dollars this year. This investment maintains the number of police officers and does not increase the number of police officers. While we get a great value from the RCMP and our joint detachment with the Township of Langley, increasing the number of police officers would have a significant impact on our budget and property tax.

This is why it is important to invest in programs, people, and infrastructure that will reduce the number of incidents that police need to attend.

This means investing in our parks and recreation departments to ensure that young people have positive opportunities in our community, or by giving community grants to organizations that help parents in our community nurture their children and by giving community grants that help ensure that young people can receive nutritious meals, so they can succeeded at school to become productive members of society. This helps reduce police calls for service over time.

It also means investing in our parks and public spaces to get more people outside which results in more eyes and ears on the street. It also helps create a sense of ownership in our community which further helps reduce police calls for services.

Ensuring that our buildings, parks, and public spaces use Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principals is also critical.

Finally, implementing traffic calming and redesigning our roads to reduce speeding also lowers the amount of police calls needed.

Programs and projects that are focused on prevention help lower the number of police calls for service. This has a direct impact on the number of police officers required which affects the City’s bottom line and your wallet.

If you do see suspicious activity, please call the police every time.

*This is the actual, not budgeted amount.
†This does not include capital works projects.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

“Secret” Free Parking in Downtown Langley

When people are looking for a place to park their vehicle when visiting Downtown Langley, the first place that most people look is along the Fraser Highway One-Way. During certain parts of the day, finding a spot on the One-Way can be tricky. While there is also on-street parking available on 56th Avenue and Douglas Crescent, there are a few parking areas that many people are unaware can be used.

The Downtown Langley Business Association provides a map of all parking that is available in the Downtown core.

Map of parking in Downtown Langley. Select image to enlarge. Source: DLBA

The first area where parking is available is at the Timms Community Centre/City Hall. You can park for up to 3 hours while visiting the Downtown core.

The other “secret” parking area is between 56th Avenue and Fraser Highway, just west of 206th Street. Many people believe that this is a paid-only parking lot or is a private parking lot. While there is some paid parking, there is also free 3-hour parking as well.

Parking lot off 56th Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Parking lot off 56th Avenue, view from lot. Select image to enlarge.

Over the past few years, I’ve told people about these two parking options. Many people were surprised that they were available for general parking use when visiting Downtown Langley. Hopefully now that this information is shared, it will also be useful for more people. These parking options are a few minutes walk to the One-Way, and will save time, reducing the need to hunt for a parking spot.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

First look at 2019 Langley City budget

Langley City staff and council have been busy over the past several months working towards a proposed 2019 financial plan and budget. An open house about the financial plan will be occurring shortly as noted below:

Date: February 21, 2019
Time: 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Location: Finance Department Foyer (main floor), Langley City Hall

You can drop in any time during the open house to ask Langley City staff questions about the budget and provide feedback. There will also be a more formal opportunity to speak to council during a Committee of the Whole meeting:

Date: February 25, 2019
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Council Chambers, Langley City Hall

The following table shows the high-level changes between the 2018 financial plan and the proposed 2019 financial plan.

High-level overview of proposed 2019 financial plan. Select table to enlarge.

There is a proposed $3.8 million increase in expenditures for 2019, and I’ll post more details about why in future posts. The short of it is that it will result in a 6.98% increase in property tax. Because of how property taxes work in our province, not all property owners are impacted the same. You can read more about why this is the case in a previous post.

On average, single-family home owners ($886,095 average assessed value) would see an increase of $58 dollars in their property tax and user fee bill in 2019. Townhouse and apartment owners ($407,050 average assessed value) would see an average increase of $164 dollars. The proposed average increase for townhouses/apartments seems step compared to single-family as proposed in the 2019 financial plan, but as shown in the follow tables, over time this isn't the case.

Apartments/Townhouses*
Year Average Change
2014 $0
2015 -$22
2016 -$39
2017 -$20
2018 $106
2019 $137
Total $162.00

Single-Family*
Year Average Change
2014 $50
2015 $92
2016 $71
2017 $105
2018 -$7
2019 $2
Total $313.00

There were a lot of priorities that I heard during the campaign this fall from people about what they wanted addressed. I look forward to sharing over the next month or so about how the proposed 2019 budget will address those priorities.

*Does not include users fees such as water and sewer charges.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Reducing the number of single-use items that end up as waste

Street Bin in Langley City

Single-use containers make up a significant portion of the volume of discarded materials in street bins. In fact, a City of Vancouver study found that around half of the materials in street bins were lightweight foodware. When I walk through our community, it is these single-use containers that appear to make up a significant amount of litter on the streets, in our parks, and in our protected areas.

Metro Vancouver is looking at ways to reduce the amount of single-use items that end up getting discarded. Some of the approaches available that the regional district is looking into include:

  • “By request-only” regulations
  • Mandatory fees
  • Restrictions on sale/distribution

“By request-only” regulations means that businesses would only distribute single-use items if explicitly asked for by a customers. An example would be that coffee shops would default to “for-here” cups instead of “to-go” cups.

A mandatory fee is another option that could be applied to single-use items. We see this today with shopping bags where people have to pay 5 cents per bag. In the Metro Vancouver report, it is noted that charging a fee for single-use containers would be more effective in reducing usage than providing a discount for people who use reusable containers.

Another proposed option would be an outright prohibition on the sales and distribution of certain single-use items. This option would likely have unintended consequences including creating different types of waste, and impacting people who require single-use items.

Another option that I’ve seen trialed is a deposit on single-use containers. For example, a 5 cent deposit could be applied to single-use items. This has been highly effective in keeping beverage containers from becoming litter or landfill.

While Metro Vancouver and municipalities can advocate for solutions to reducing the number of single-use items that get discarded, the provincial government is ultimately responsible for implementing laws and regulations around discarded materials such as single-use items. To be most effective, a province-wide single-use item reduction strategy would be required.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Surrey Langley SkyTrain Project Website Up

With the switch from light rail along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue in Surrey to SkyTrain from King George Station to Langley City, TransLink has set up a new website about the proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain Project.

Map of proposed SkyTrain stations along Fraser Highway. Select map to enlarge. Source: City of Surrey.

The website currently has a limited amount of information, but I expect that as this project continues to move forward, more information will become available. The current information on the site includes some of the preliminary reports such as a report about the cost to build SkyTrain to Langley. There is also an FAQ page with some information.

For example, on the FAQ page it is stated that it will take “approximately 15 months until spring 2020” to develop the project plan for SkyTrain. “Following this, a procurement process would take another 15 months, and construction would take approximately four years.” If all goes to plan and funding is found, it would take about six to seven year for the SkyTrain to be operating past King George Station.

Over the next year, the full cost of the project will become known. Currently, the estimated cost is $2.9 billion.

One of the key aspects of the website appears to be signing people up to a mailing list to stay up to date about the project. If you are interested in this project, I suggest that you take a look at the site and consider signing up to the mailing list. I’ll also be following this website, and will be posting information as it becomes available.