Thursday, February 20, 2020

#IReadCanadian Day

I read Canadian

As they say, it is better late than never. Yesterday was #IReadCanadian Day, an opportunity to bring visibility around Canadian books, authors, and illustrators.

With so many books available online and in-stores, it can sometimes be hard to know where to start if you are looking to read a book from a Canadian author or illustrator, or a book about Canadian experiences.

For example, there are award winning authors right in our own back yard such as Langley-born Jonathan Auxier.

A good place to start in our province would be the BC and Yukon Book Prize. You can find past winners in prize in categories that range from children to adult, and fiction to non-fiction.

If you are looking to encourage your child to read, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre is a good place to start.

The #IReadCanadian site also has links to other province’s book awards if you would like to find books from authors and illustrators who are from specific provinces.

Many of these books can be requested online or from the Langley City branch of the Fraser Valley Regional Library.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Metro Vancouver’s water conservation efforts a success story. More work needed.

One of the success stories of our region has been our efforts to converse water. The Metro Vancouver Regional District recently released a report on water utilization in our region going back until 1985.

Back in 1985, Metro Vancouver had about half the population as today, but a similar amount of water being utilized as shown in the following graph.

Water use by sector, trends from 1985 to 2017. *Years when not all local government water consumption data was available. Source: Metro Vancouver.

Per capita per day of water used has been steadily declining. Today, 486 litres per person per day of water is used in Metro Vancouver. Even with the reduction of per capita water usage, overall water usage is starting to climb again due to population growth.

Breakdown of water use by sector in 2017. Select chart to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

58% of water utilized in our region is for residential use. This means that there is still significant opportunities for people to make a big difference in our water conservation efforts.

Switching out shower heads, toilets, faucets, washing machines, and dishwashers with low-flow models can significantly reduce your water usage. BC Hydro even offers some rebates for shower heads and faucet aerators.

Of course, fixing leaks and drips also goes a long way to help conserve water.

One of the best ways to conserve water is to not water your lawn. This is something that can even be done if you live in a strata.

I grew up in the Okanagan where water conservation during the summer is critical. Golden lawns were OK. Many people replaced grass lawns with other plantings and landscaping that looked good and needed less water to maintain.

For a more local example, our strata doesn’t water our grass. During the winter and spring, the grass is green. During the summer, it turns golden. The strata building across the street waters their grass. I do not believe people who live in that other building have a better quality of live compared to people who live in my building due to grass watering.

Langley Environmental Partners Society has a good guide on water-wise gardening.

People who live in Metro Vancouver have done a good job conserving water, but as our population continues to grow and climate change causes drier summers, we will need to step up our game.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Metro Vancouver’s Walkability Index highlights gaps in the transit network

TransLink is well underway in delivering the Mayors’ Council’s 10-Year Transit and Transportation Vision which extends to about 2025. This includes SkyTrain to Langley.

Map of Mayors’ Council 10 Year Investments. Select map to enlarge. Source: Mayors’ Council.

Work is now underway on Transport 2050 which is our region’s long-term transportation plan. Metro Vancouver has had a series of these long-term plans which have been successfully implemented since at least the early 1990s.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District and TransLink has been working with the UBC Health and Community Design Lab to create a walkability index for our region. The walkability index has five components that determine the score: residential density, intersection density, land-use mix, commercial floor area ratio, and sidewalk network completeness. While the index does have some challenges, it helps to highlight areas that are walkable.

Why does this matter, and how can this link to Transport 2050?

One of the longstanding goals for regional planning in Metro Vancouver has been to create walkable nodes with a mix of housing, shops, services, offices, and industry connected by high quality transit. In Metro Vancouver’s land-use plans, these are called urban centres.

The following map overlays these urban centres, TransLink’s frequent transit network, and the walkability index.

2016 Walkability Index overlaid with Metro Vancouver’s Urban Centres and TransLink’s Frequent Transit Network. Select map to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.

There are a few observations which could help inform Transport 2050 and Metro Vancouver’s land-use plans.

It appears that there are urban centres that are missing such as the Scott Road area in Newton, Clayton, Walnut Grove, and Tsawwassen. Urban centres such as South Surrey, Cloverdale, and Ambleside/Park Royal should be expanded.

This map also highlights major gaps in the frequent transit network.

For example, there is no frequent transit service in South Delta, Cloverdale, and Aldergrove. While there is a planned RapidBus for the 200th Street corridor, there needs to be frequent transit along 208th Street and in Walnut Grove. Port Coquitlam needs better transit connectivity as an urban centre.

Hopefully, this walkability index can help inform transit priorities in our region as every transit trip starts or ends with walking.

This walkability index is based on 2016 census data which is the most recent census. The next census will be in 2021, and I hope that this walkability index will be updated at that time.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

February 10 Council Meeting: Zoning Matters

This week I’ve posted about feedback received about Langley City’s proposed 2020-24 Financial Plan, and an update on various civil projects occurring in the community; these matters were both from Monday night’s Langley City council meeting. This post will cover the remaining items from that evening.

Council gave final reading to bylaws, and approved issuing development permits, which enable the construction of two development projects:

On January 27th, council decided to start the process of replacing the former Advisory Planning Commission with a new Advisory Design Panel. Council gave final reading to repeal the bylaw for the old Advisory Planning Commission and replace references to this old commission, with Advisory Design Panel, in other bylaws.

Council also approved Councillor Gayle Martin to attend the International Making Cities Livable Conference in Carmel, Indiana from June 2nd to 6th, 2020. The total cost is estimated to be $2,000.

The Langley District Parent Advisory Council sent a letter to both Langley City and Township councils requesting that zoning bylaws be amended to prevent businesses from selling vape products that are located within a 2km radius of schools.

As Langley City is in the process of updating its Official Community Plan and zoning bylaw, council requested that City staff investigate this request as part of this update process.

As a note, if council did decide to move forward with this request, existing businesses that sell vape product within a 2km radius would be grandfathered in as per BC law.

Finally, council heard from Anthony Butera regarding setting up a retail cannabis dispensary in Langley City.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

February 10 Council Meeting: Engineering and Parks Update - Snow, flooding, and other matters

This last month has been extremely busy for Langley City crews; Langley City council received an update on Monday night about the various activities and projects underway in the community.

In the middle of January, Metro Vancouver received an extraordinary amount of snow in a short period of time. Langley City crews were out making sure that city-maintained roads, walkways, sidewalks, and facilities were accessible.

Snow in Downtown Langley. Select image to enlarge.

At the beginning of this month, after weeks of heavy raining, the Nicomekl River floodplain was fully doing its job. City crews were out ensuring that our community remained safe, responding to localized flooding events.

Flooding, pedestrian bridge east of 203rd Street. Select image to enlarge.

Flooding, Brydon Lagoon. Select image to enlarge.

The Nicomekl River floodplain is protected. One of the reasons why we didn’t see massive flooding in our community this month is because we have preserved the integrity of the floodplain over the years to protect us from a 1 in 100-year flooding event. Due to climate change, there will be more frequent and severe flooding that the current floodplain will not protect us from. This is why the City updated it Floodplain Elevation Bylaw recently, and is proposing to support redevelopment to reduce flooding risks in the upcoming new Official Community Plan.

In time for spring, the new Douglas Park Community Garden will be open.

A proposed Rotary Centennial Park Community Garden is also in the works.

A new public washroom will be opening soon at Nicholas Park.

If you’ve travelled down 203rd Street recently, you will have noticed that there is a new traffic light at Industrial Avenue to enable better access between Industrial Avenue and 203rd Street.

Traffic light replacement in progress at 53rd/53A Avenue/206 Street. Select image to enlarge.

The traffic light at 53rd/53A Avenue/206 Street is also in the process of being replaced.

LED lighting replacement. Select image to enlarge.

Council also learned that work is continuing to replace all our streetlights with energy-efficient LED lights.

New water and sewer system monitoring and control system. Select image to enlarge.

The system that ensures that our water and sewer system is fully monitored and controlled was recently replaced. This will help ensure that our city-owned utilities continue to provide reliable service.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

February 10 Council Meeting: Feedback received on 2020-2024 Financial Plan

At the start of last night’s Langley City council meeting, people had the opportunity to provide direct feedback to council about the proposed 2020-2024 Financial Plan. People were also able to send a letter or email to council as well as attend an open house which was held last week. More information on the financial plan is available in previous posts I wrote.

Council received seven emails about the financial plan. About eight people attended the council meeting specifically for the financial plan, with three of those people talking directly to council.

All 10 people who provided submissions to council were opposed to the financial plan and proposed borrowing of $50 million to investing into our community.

Generally, the people who provided direct feedback were asking council to cut the budget which would result in cuts to services. It is important to review all services and spending in our municipality. Senior City staff and council did go through a thorough review of the budget this year.

Some people noted that the proposed residential tax increase would be six percent or higher. The average residential tax increase is proposed to be 5.6%

Langley City recently commissioned a community survey, and there was a strong desire from the majority of residents for continued investment into our community.

Balancing Taxation and Service Delivery Levels from 2019 Langley City Community Survey. Select image to enlarge.

For a list of specific investments that people would like to see, please read a previous blog post on the topic.

One speaker at the meeting did ask council to consider setting up a development corporation if we moved forward with strategic property investment to support the SkyTrain extension to our community. Langley City does have the Langley City Development Corporation which could be used for such a purpose.

One of the overall themes was the impact of property tax on people with fixed incomes. My mom owns an apartment in Kelowna, so this is something that has a direct impact in my family. Because of the rapid increase in the value of property, most people who own land are “house rich.”

To help people who are on a fixed income, the provincial government offers a property tax deferral program. This allows people on fixed incomes to defer paying property tax until they sell their property.

Later during the meeting, council unanimously approved third reading of the 2020-2024 Financial Plan bylaw.

Because City council is considering borrowing $50 million over the next five years to support investing into our community, we must go through an Alternative Approval Process per provincial law. There will be further opportunity to have a direct say on this proposed borrowing. I will provide more information about this process as it becomes available.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Langley City January Property Crime Map

The following is the latest map which shows where property crime has occurred in Langley City for the month of January.

Langley City Property Crime Map, January 2020. Select map to enlarge.

There are a few things to note about the map. The grey boxes on the map are the location of Block Watch neighbourhoods.

Also note that the population density is higher north of the Nicomekl River than south. Also, north of the Nicomekl River is a regional centre and business hub for Metro Vancouver. It would be expected to see more activity north of the Nicomekl River because of this.

One of the ways that the RCMP can target crime hot spots is by reviewing reports of suspicious activity. If you seen any suspicious activities in your neighbourhood, please call the RCMP non-emergency number at (604) 532-3200. Also, never feel that something is too small to call into the police. They value all calls.

If you would like to help reduce negative activity in your neighbourhood, please consider joining a Block Watch. Many neighbourhoods in Langley City have Block Watch programs in place. If you are interested in joining a Block Watch, or want to learn more about the program, please contact:
Florence Fowler
Direct Line: 604-532-3213
Email: florence.fowler@rcmp-grc.gc.ca

Thursday, February 6, 2020

January 27 Council Meeting: Motions passed including supporting 30km/h default speed limit

Most people don’t know it, but besides dying from an illicit drug overdose or suicide, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of preventable deaths in British Columbia. One of the easiest ways to reduce the number of people that die or are seriously injured due to motor vehicle crashes is to reduce the speed of motor vehicles.

In most places where they are serious about reducing the number of people that are killed or injured due to motor vehicle crashes, they have implemented a default speed limit of 30km/h on streets. There are roads with higher speeds too, and they are designed to be safer at higher speeds.

In BC, the default speed limit is 50km/h. This applies to residential streets as well. The difference between 30km/h and 50km/h, for someone walking or cycling if they are hit by a motor vehicle, is the difference between life and death.

Today in our province, if municipalities want to lower the speed limit on residential streets to 30km/h, every single block of every residential street would have to have a 30km/h sign. In addition, a bylaw would need to be created to authorize a 30km/h speed limit for every single block where a 30km/h sign would be placed. Placing this large number of signs is not feasible for most municipalities due to the on-going maintenance and administration costs. This would also create a lot of needless visual clutter.

Since 1999, municipalities in BC have asked that the province to allow a default 30km/h speed limit on residential streets. At last year’s Union of BC Municipalities Conference, this request was again asked of the province.

Like every other time in the last 20 years, the province decided to not move forward with this recommendation.

The District of Saanich, which is the largest municipalities on Vancouver Island, send a letter to Premier Horgan expressing their disappointment that the province has once again decided to not take action to reducing the default speed limit to 30km/h for residential streets.

Saanich Mayor and Council asked that the province reconsider. Langley City council at its January 27th meeting also approved sending a letter to the Premier Horgan in support of Saanich Mayor and Council.

It is time that we reduce the number of people that are killed and seriously injured on our streets.

At the same council meeting, a new Advisory Design Panel was approved to replace the previous Advisory Planning Commission. The new Advisory Design Panel will provide advice to council on proposed development projects. The former Advisory Planning Commission was all laypeople. The new Advisory Design Panel will include laypeople and “architects and landscape architects, to provide technical advice on development applications.”

Council members sit on various committees. For 2020, this list of committee appointments was confirmed at the January 27th meeting. The full list of appointments can be downloaded from the City’s website.

Finally, council passed a motion unanimously “directing staff to prepare a report providing information on potential liability, costs, and compliance with Use of Corporate Identity and Brand Policy CO-64 as it relates to the holding of a City Mayor's Gala on an annual basis.”

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

January 27 Council Meeting: Moving forward with development projects. Concerns addressed around proposed Langley Lions Seniors Housing redevelopment.

In December, council gave first and second reading to a bylaw which would enable a 6-storey, mixed-use development project to be built at the corner or Logan Avenue and 203A Street if approved.

Top-down view from Locke Lane of the 6-storey, mixed-use development project. Select image to enlarge.

Also, council gave first and second reading to bylaws which would enable the construction of a new 101-unit Birch Building, plus allow for the eventual redevelopment of the current 518-unit Langley Lions Housing complex into a 981-unit, seniors-focused complex if approved.

Rendering of overall redevelopment plan for the Langley Lions Housing Society complex. Select image to enlarge.

A public hearing was held on January 13th to get public feedback on both proposed projects. While there was no feedback about the 6-storey, mixed-use project beyond clarifying its location, there was significant feedback received about the Langley Lions Housing Society project.

Because of the significant feedback received, Langley City staff prepared a public hearing information report. In this report, staff outlined what was heard at the public hearing, and clarifications or responses to what was heard at the public hearing.

The Langley Care Society who operates the Langley Lodge which is next to the Langley Lions complex was concerned that the proposed Birch Building would have a negative impact during construction, block cell phone antennas on their roof, and shadow their outside courtyard garden.

In the report, staff noted that the Langley Lions Housing Society will work with the Langley Care Society to ensure that negative impacts are mitigated. With regards to the courtyard garden, the garden will only be fully shadowed past 4pm like the current shadowing today.

There was also concern that the density of the project when fully built-out at 981-unit would cause isolation among residents. The Langley Lions Housing Society noted that indoor “spaces are specifically programmed to overcome segregation and isolation.”

Also, City staff noted that “low building lot coverage (36.5 percent), large internal courtyards and community gardens, and ground-oriented units that provide ‘eyes on the street’ and greenspaces” will provide a high-quality outside space for residents.

The remaining concerns were around the affordability of the proposed project, the mix of senior to non-senior residents, and support services available for people who have higher care needs.

The proposed Official Community Plan update will require a housing agreement be singed between the City and Langley Lions Housing Society for each phase of the project. Tenant mix and affordability will be addressed in the housing agreement process. This housing agreement process has not started yet.

Council passed a motion that the project should have a higher percentage of senior residents than there are today once fully built-out.

BC Housing, which is the funder of the proposed 101-unit replacement Birch Building, noted that “none of its subsidized tenants for the new Birch building will be required to pay more than 30 % of income for rent.”

For more details, please read the staff report.

Langley City council gave third reading to bylaws for both the 6-storey, mixed-use development project, and Langley Lions Housing Society complex redevelopment at its January 27th meeting.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Building Langley City’s Future: 2020 proposed municipal tax bill explained

Over the past week, I’ve posted about Langley City’s proposed 2020-24 Financial Plan including:

This year’s financial plan is the start of an ambition program to support the Nexus of Community vision. This vision is about creating a walkable, healthy community connected to the rest of the region by high-quality transit. Nexus of Community means we must invest into our community to make sure we have a diversity of housing options from affordable rentals to home ownership, high-quality public amenities such as a performing arts centre and renewed parks, and a thriving commercial sector to grow our status as a net importer of jobs and as a regional town centre.

This ambition program will be supported by a modest property tax increase.

Langley City had, on-average, the lowest residential property tax in Metro Vancouver in 2019.

2019 Municipal Property Tax Levy Survey, Average Multi-Family Dwellings. Select image to enlarge.

2019 Municipal Property Tax Levy Survey, Average Single-Family Dwellings. Select image to enlarge.

In 2020, Langley City taxes and utility rates will be increasing.

For single family homes, the on-average annual increase is proposed to be $179. This is a 5.65% increase compared to 2019.

For multi-family homes (apartments and townhouses), the on-average annual increase is proposed to be $86. This is a 5.52% increase compared to 2019.

Even with these proposed increases, Langley City will have one of the lowest, if not the lowest, on-average property taxes for residential property owners in Metro Vancouver.

Business property owners will see an on-average increase of 6.93%, and light industrial properties owners will see an on-average increase of 7.05%.

For more information about this year’s financial plan, please visit Langley City’s website.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Building Langley City’s Future: Proposed increases to enhance services

I posted about Langley City’s proposed $111 million investment plan for our community, and specific initiatives that are proposed to be funded this year as part of that plan last week. While these projects are critically important to building Langley City’s future, preparing for the arrival of the SkyTrain, there are also on-going, day-to-day services that are funding from the City’s operating budget.

These operating costs include things such as providing police and fire services, maintaining parks and trails, providing recreation services, funding the library, ensuring our roads and walkways are maintained, and keeping water and sewer services running.

The proposed operating budget for Langley City in 2020 is $43.2 million to deliver these services to residents and businesses in the community.

In order to maintain the same level of service as last year, driven mainly by planned increases in wages and benefits for staff, the operating budget is proposed to increase by $828,850.

In addition to maintaining existing services, Langley City council is proposing to increase the level of services provided as follows:

Increasing Funding to Infrastructure Levey — $100,000
Increases the amount of funding transferred to reserve accounts to help fund the replacement of aging infrastructure such as water and sewer pipes.

Increase Trail Maintenance — $50,000
Ensure that the trail network is kept at a higher standard of maintenance with more frequent mowing, trimming, and cleanup.

Increase Playground Maintenance — $20,000
Ensure that the increase in playground equipment in City parks are well maintained.

Increase Fire Training — $30,000
To address additional training requirements for new and existing fire suppression staff.

Inclusion Support Worker — $8,700
Will allow children who have physical or behavioural challenges to succeed at the City’s summer camp program.

These plus other service level increases total $292,555.

Tomorrow will be my final post about the proposed financial plan for Langley City, tying everything together.