Monday, October 19, 2020

Protecting Employment Lands and Jobs in Metro Vancouver. Increasing Employment Density near SkyTrain.

Land in Metro Vancouver has two levels of zoning. A regional zone and a municipal zone. Regional zones are in place to protect agricultural, industrial, rural, conservation, and recreation lands. Without regional land-use protection, Metro Vancouver would have less greenspace. Our region would also have less employment lands and jobs which are located along key transportation corridors including the Fraser River.

The protection of these employment lands and greenspace has been steadily increasing over the last 25 years. Currently to remove these protected lands for general urban uses, such as residential and retail, both municipal and regional rezoning must occur. At the regional level, rezoning is a rare occurrence due to the deliberate roadblocks put in place in the Metro 2040 Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) policies.

Current regional land uses in Langley City. Purple = Industrial; Salmon = Mixed Employment Lands. Source: Metro Vancouer GIS.

While the current RGS has been effective, there are some gaps in the protection of employment lands. As the regional district is now working on an updated Metro 2050 Regional Growth Strategy, some of these gaps are now being examined.

One of the biggest gaps is that retail uses are being permitted within employment lands. There is also employment land next to SkyTrain stations throughout the region that is low density. The regional district is looking at how to increase employment densities in regionally zoned employment lands around these stations while also providing affordable rental housing.

The following set of recommendations has been made by Metro Vancouver Regional District staff.

  1. Update and clarify the definition of industrial use
  2. Strengthen regional policies to protect Industrial lands for industrial uses
  3. Introduce some flexibility for Mixed Employment lands by rail rapid transit stations to accommodate higher job density and other regional growth strategy objectives
  4. Encourage industrial intensification/densification, where contextually appropriate to the activity and location
  5. Undertake a regional land use assessment to proactively identify the ‘best’ location for different land uses
  6. Improve climate action policy such as adapting to sea level rising and flooding

Langley City has regionally-zoned industrial and mixed-employment lands. City staff are in the process of updating Langley City’s Official Community Plan. Protecting these employment lands is supported. I look forward to seeing the specifics of how the region will support increasing employment density around SkyTrain stations as both proposed Langley SkyTrain stations are near employment lands.

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