Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Langley City’s Request for Service is the fastest way to report a problem

As a Langley City Council member, one of my roles is to help people navigate municipal government. One thing that gives me stratification is when a resident can get their matters resolved.

I’ve posted about it before. One of the first things that I ask people when they contact me about getting something fixed or cleaned-up is if they’ve completed a Request for Service.

Request for Service is Langley City’s online tool for reporting issues.

I use the tool all the time myself. I’ve likely completed hundreds of Request for Service requests over the years for things like burnt-out streetlights, abandoned garbage cleanup, trail repairs, signage requests, and bylaw matters.

The benefit of using Request for Service is that it delivers your request directly to the people who can action your request. It also gives you an ID number. All actions associated with a request are associated with that ID number.

Sometimes people reach out to me after they’ve reached out to City Hall about a matter. If a person has a Request for Service ID number, it streamlines figuring out what occurred.

Not all matters can be addressed with the Request for Service tool. It does take an email or phone call to address issues sometimes.

If you see a broken water main, damaged sewer line, non-functional traffic light, missing stops sign, or a sinkhole, please call the City at (604) 514-2800 or (604) 534-3496 if it is after-hours.

For after-hours bylaw issues such as around noise, please call the non-emergency line of the Langley RCMP at (604) 532-3200.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Celebrating Arts and Culture in Langley City – On Now

Screenshot from Langley City website.

Langley City has launched its Celebrating Arts and Culture Virtual Gallery at https://langleycity.ca/celebrating-arts-culture-langley-city

The virtual gallery contains art in all mediums, including printmaking, music, photography, dance, paintings, sculptures, fabric, pottery, and drawings.

Some local businesses are displaying art from the virtual gallery that people can view from the outside. If you happen to be in Downtown Langley (along 203rd, 56th, or the One-Way), be sure to keep your eyes peeled for murals, pottery, paintings, and 3D printing art.

The virtual gallery will be up until January 31st, and many of the pieces are for sale.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Regional District looking to strengthen climate change policies. Perfect timing for Langley City.

Last week, Langley City council unanimously passed a motion that there is a climate emergency. Council requested staff to provide a work plan for how our community can achieve net-zero carbon emissions before 2050. Included in that work plan is updating our Sustainability Framework to incorporate current best practices on climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, focused around development and infrastructure projects.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is in the process of updating the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). Langley City's Offical Community Plan must be consistent with the objectives of the RGS.

Climate change policy areas. Select image to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver

One of the areas of focus for the updated RGS is climate change and natural hazards. The current RGS is light on specific measures that municipalities in Metro Vancouver must take around climate change and natural hazards risk reduction. The Regional District is looking to strengthen the language in the updated RGS as follows:

  • Embed new climate change policies in all goals of the update RGS
  • Require ecosystem services such as carbon storage and flood protection to be considered when changing regional land-use designations
  • Require municipalities to specify how they will meet regional GHG emissions reduction targets
  • Quantify the influence of land-use, carbon storage, and regional GHG emissions
  • Create policies to reduce energy consumption and GHG emissions based on current standards and best practices
  • Identify and map regional-scale natural hazards, risks and vulnerabilities
  • Encourage regional growth patterns that incorporate emergency management, utility planning, and climate change adaptation
  • Support regional flood management

Langley City is currently in the process of update our Offical Community Plan. If City council adopts the updated Offical Community Plan this year, the next step will be to update our master plans, such as the Master Transportation Plan. Langley City’s timing is fortuitous as updating our master plans will likely be occurring simultaneously as the Regional District updates its policies.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

January 11 Council Meeting: Volunteer committee accomplishments, $400,000 pedestrian bridge replacement, declaring a national opioid overdose crisis

Usually, Langley City will host in-person Youth Week activities in May, Community Day celebrations in June, and the Magic of Christmas parade in December. The Youth Committee, Community Day Committee, and Magic of Christmas Committee handle these events. The committees include City staff, students, volunteers from the community, and City council.

In-person events could not occur in 2020, so these committees pivoted to providing other community-based experiences.

For example, the Community Day Committee put together a scavenger hunt consisting of ten riddles to solve, requiring people to visit local parks this summer.

The Magic of Christmas Committee produced a local holiday lights virtual tour and a social media ‘Countdown to Christmas’. The committee provided funding for additional Christmas lights in McBurney Plaza.

The Youth Committee suspended their work on Youth Week 2020 to plan for future years. As a result, they shifted to raising awareness around social and environmental issues in our community.

Council received a report about these committees on Monday. I was impressed by the creative ideas that our committees came up with to enable community building experiences that were not in-person events.

On Monday, Langley City council approved applying for a $400,000 grant from the federal “COVID-19 resilience infrastructure stream” to replace the safe but rickety pedestrian bridge near 206A Street with an accessible 3-metre wide steel bridge.

Location of the bridge to be replaced in the Nicomekl River Floodplain near 206A Street

Langley City council received a letter from the City of Kamloops calling for the federal government to declare the opioid overdose crisis a national public health emergency, decriminalize person use of drugs, and ensure that there are pharmaceutical alternatives to toxic street drugs. Council referred this letter to City staff to formula a potential letter that City council could send to the federal government on the same topic.

Council indirectly received an email from our MP Tamara Jansen regarding her comments that Langley City is a “Ghost Town.” Due to technical issues, the discussion of this email was cut-short and deferred to a future council meeting.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

2021 Proposed User Fees for Langley City Water, Sewer, and Garbage Services

January is when Langley City’s annual budget, property tax rates, and user fees work their way through the council approval process. On Monday, City Council gave first, second, and third reading to three bylaws related to 2021 user fees.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is making significant investments in our region’s water and sewer systems. Langley City buys water and sewer services from the regional district. These investments are one of the reasons why user fees are increasing in Langley City this year.

The sewer user fee is increasing by 6¢ to $1.33 per cubic metre. The flat fee of $75 per year remains unchanged. The average annual cost for a single-family homeowner will be $426.12, which increases by $15.84 from 2020. The average annual cost for a strata homeowner will be $277.16, an increase of $9.12 from 2020.

The water user fee is increasing by 9¢ to $1.44 per cubic metre. The flat fee of $75 per year remains unchanged. The average annual cost for a single-family homeowner will be $550.20, which increases $29.70 from 2020. The average annual cost for a strata homeowner will be $348.60, which increases by $17.10 from 2020.

If you receive curbside garbage collection services from the city, your fee will increase by $6 to $210 annually.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

January 11 Council Meeting: Climate Change Emergency Declared. Council asks for the next steps to get to net-zero before 2050.

Langley City has been working towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) over the past decade. In 2010, council approved a Sustainability Framework and Community Energy & Greenhouse Gas Emissions Plan.

Over the last decade, our understanding of climate change has evolved. We now know that we have to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and retrofit our communities to adapt to the climate change already set in action.

Council passed a motion at yesturday’s council meeting stating that “climate change constitutes an emergency” in our community.

Council also asked staff to provide a report on past and current initiatives to reduce GHG emissions in our community, including plans in the works.

Council asked staff for the next steps, including resourcing and timelines, to:

  • Achieve community-wide net-zero carbon emissions before 2050.
  • Update our Sustainability Framework to incorporate current best practices on climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, focused around development and infrastructure projects.

Council also directed the City’s Environmental Task Group to facilitate community engagement around an equitable transitioning to a low-carbon society.

The following is the full motion approved by council, which was put forward by Councillor Rosemary Wallace.

WHEREAS Climate change is an existential crisis, and municipalities are at the forefront of addressing it; and

WHEREAS The earth is currently on track to warm by more that 3 degrees Celsius; and

WHEREAS An October 8, 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds that it is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, rather than 2 degrees as previously understood, and that doing so “would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” and that we have until 2030 to undertake these changes; and

WHEREAS The IPCC report puts the benchmark for greenhouse gas reduction targets for corporate and community-wide emissions at 45% by 2030, 65% by 2040 and 100% by 2050; and

WHEREAS The British Columbia government declared a provincial state of emergency in 2018 over record-setting wildfires; and

WHEREAS Local governments world wide are taking action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change and calling on senior levels of government for an urgent emergency response; and

WHEREAS Youth all over the world are forming alliances in addressing and taking action in problem solving in recognizing that every person deserves the right to a healthy environment... clean water, air and soil; and

WHEREAS Sustainabiliteens presented a delegation to Langley City Council back in April of 2019 with a list of concerns and suggestions in the muchneeded response to the climate crisis and the need for a Just Recovery for all; and

WHEREAS Understanding the Indigenous Rights: Commit to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Full; and

WHEREAS The need to return to Indigenous Stewardship and the natural world in respecting the place in which we reside is on the unceded lands traditional territories Matsqui Kwantlen, Katzie and Semiahmoo First Nations.

WHEREAS Sustainabiliteens met with Metro Vancouver Action Committee and in a statement, stated... The climate crisis affects everyone especially youth, we will be the ones facing the worst impacts of climate change and that looms over us ever day. Because of this we demand that the committee do everything in their power A) declare a climate emergency and B) adjust their emissions reductions targets to 65% by 2030 and 100% by 2040;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED

THAT Council recognize that climate change constitutes an emergency in the City of Langley; and

THAT Council direct staff to report back on;

  1. What is the City currently doing/done to reduce our GHG emissions; and
  2. What plans are currently in the process of implementation to further reduce the City’s GHG emissions to meet the Region’s climate action targets; and
  3. What potential next steps can the City take to:
    1. Achieve net-zero carbon emissions before 2050 with a balanced approach for today and future generations
    2. Update the current Sustainability Framework to incorporate current best practices on climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and to incorporate principles of biodiversity, sustainability and stewardship to guide future developments and infrastructure projects within Langley City; and,
  4. What are the City required resources, funding and timelines to implement the current plans, provide any updates, and the potential next steps to achieve the identified targets; and
  5. Ensure that all orders of government are notified of Langley City’s commitment to achieving the GHG emissions targets identified in the Metro Region and the IPCC report.
  6. That the City of Langley Environmental Task Group facilitate intergenerational community engagement surrounding a just transition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the scale that is required, with the focus on vulnerable members of society who will be most impacted by climate change and intersecting inequity; ensure these people are front and center in building long term solutions.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Montreal’s forced amalgamation and why it matters for Metro Vancouver

One conversation that happens from time to time is that our region should reduce the number of municipalities. I’ve posted about this in the past. The result would be less accountable local governments with no cost savings.

In Metro Vancouver, we have a federation of local governments in the form of a regional district. The regional district provides services such as public housing, 911 services, clean drinking water, sewer treatment services, and solid waste management.

Transit is regionally funded, planned, and delivered by TransLink. Major roads are also regionally funded by TransLink.

Many communities in our region also share police services and library services.

Over the weekend, I read about the process in the early 2000s when the Quebec provincial government forced 28 municipalities in Greater Montreal to amalgamate. The decision to amalgamate was unpopular. Successful referendums resulted in 15 of the former municipalities demerging from the Montreal “megacity.”

The current City of Toronto is also a result of many force amalgamations over the years. Toronto currently has 26 councillors, which represent around 2.7 million people. This number works out to one councillor for every 103,846 residents, similar in size to large federal ridings. Provincial MLAs in BC represent about 62,000 people each. The point being is that such a larger number of people per City councillor reduced local accountability.

In Montreal, the provincial government recognized the importance of local government representation and accountability, even as it was forcing an amalgamation.

The City of Montreal has 19 Boroughs, each with a mayor and council. Boroughs range in size from a population of 18,000 to 167,000. Borough councils are responsible for many local services such as fire protection, road, and land-use planning. There are 18 borough mayors and 38 borough councillors.

Montreal also has a City Council. City Council includes the mayor of Montreal, the 18 borough mayors, and 46 other councillors that deal with City-wide matters, including setting long-term spending programs.

There is also an Executive Committee of Montreal City Council, which coordinates the City’s actions and day-to-day activities. The committee includes councillors appointed by the mayor of Montreal.

In Montreal, they invented a new structure that seems to be a two-tier local government system in all but name (similar to Metro Vancouver.)

In Toronto, they sacrificed accountability in the name of a smaller City Council and increased service delivery cost! This is a lose-lose.

When looking at our local governments in BC, our current Metro Vancouver structure is working well to ensure that we have local accountability with regional delivery of services where it makes sense.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Automatic walk signs at intersections. Making the pedestrian experience better along 64th Avenue.

I can count the number of times that I’ve left Langley on my hands over the last nine months. These days my world is the area bond by the BC Hydro right of way, Surrey border, 64th Avenue, and the Derek Doubleday Arboretum. As walking is my primary way of getting around, I’ve become very familiar with the pedestrian experience in this section of our region.

Some parts of our community are pleasurable to walk, such as in our parks, trails, and Downtown. There are other parts of our community where it is downright scary to walk, such as along the Langley Bypass.

One of the things that I’ve noticed recently was an improvement when walking along 64th Avenue, which is in the Township of Langley. In the past, you had to press the walk button. If you missed pressing the button before the start of a green light cycle, you would have to wait until the next green cycle. This could result in waiting between 2 to 4 minutes. The last few times I’ve walked along 64th Avenue, the walk signs at intersections have automatically activated without me needing to press a button.

This walk sign is automatically displayed at 64th Avenue and 202nd Street. Select image to enlarge.

This change has shaved a few minutes off the walk between 204th/Willowbrook Connector and the SmartCentre mall, improving the pedestrian experience.

Langley City has also been improving the pedestrian experience at some intersections. If there is enough time left in a green cycle, when you press the walk button at some intersections, you will immediately get a walk sign without having to wait for a complete cycle.

I’m encouraged that in Langley, we are slowly improving the pedestrian experience at intersections.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

KPU’s Langley Campus vision revealed. Integrates with Langley City’s Innovation Boulevard.

Recently, Kwantlen Polytechnic University released their “KPU 2050 Campus Master Plan.” This plan outlines the guiding principles and vision for each of KPU’s campuses.

KPU’s campuses today are commuter focused. The Langley campus is surrounded by a large parking lot and is active only during school hours.

Concept plan for Langley campus. Select image to enlarge.

These are the goals from the new campus master plan:

Living Campus
We heard a call for campuses that foster amenities, services and destinations that bring vibrancy to campus life. Students, faculty and staff all want a reason to stay on campus after their school or work day comes to a close, and possibly to extend the stay on campus through the introduction of on-campus student housing.

Connected
For some, this meant the ability to be connected to the events and programs offered in their neighbouring community or on other campuses. For others, this meant the ability to travel between the campuses conveniently. Noting the COVID Pandemic, this goal takes on the potential to see the KPU community be better connected digitally, through online learning and working platforms.

Green
Students, faculty and staff are eager for KPU to continue its efforts to be a leader in sustainability, starting from the physical campus in acknowledgment of KPU’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 and extending out to the many facets of the university. They also want to see green spaces on campus that can allow for biophilia, recreation or outdoor study.

Resilient
The KPU community wants the campuses to be resilient through an uncertain future. This was expressed through the theme of adaptable spaces and sustainable resource stewardship.

The highlights of the concept plan for the Langley campus are:

  • Restoring the natural environment along the Langley Bypass
  • Creating a pedestrian-friendly campus
  • Undergrounding the parking
  • Connecting people to Logan Creek
  • Integrating with Langley City’s “Innovation Boulevard” vision with buildings that front Glover Road that provide retail or other services to the whole community
  • Looking at introducing student housing on-campus

Langley City is currently updating our Official Community Plan. KPU’s new vision for their Langley Campus ties into Langley City’s plan. The Innovation Boulevard concept along Glover Road is about creating a strong connection to KPU. For example, this connection could include creating student housing above business and industry connected with KPU’s research areas.

KPU’s Langley Campus has leading botany research and training programs. Recruiting an agrotech company to set up along the Innovation Boulevard might be a good fit.

KPU’s Langley Campus has a brewing instructional laboratory. Encouraging craft brewers and distillers to locate along Innovation Boulevard would tie into KPU’s campus plan.

KPU’s Langley Campus has a leading music program. Langley City is proposing to build a performing arts centre in our downtown core. There is an opportunity to explore what that would mean for the Innovation Boulevard, which connects Langley City’s Downtown to the KPU campus.

I am encouraged to see that KPU is looking to invest in their campuses to integrate them into their communities.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Practical ways to reduce litter in our parks, streets, and sensitive natural areas

This winter, I have done more walking along streets and trails in Langley City than any previous winter. It has been wet and windy this season. The combination of wind, rain, and increased walking throughout the City has highlighted some of the litter challenges in our natural areas.

Litter in a protected area. Select image to enlarge.

There are several ways in which litter makes its way into our natural and environmentally sensitive areas. These areas include the Nicomekl River, its tributaries, and surrounding protected areas.

The first is when people throw garbage onto the street or leave trash in a park or protected area. Some of that litter will get into the storm drains in our streets, which empty to the Nicomekl River and other local creeks. The wind will also take up some litter to get caught in plants, trees, or watercourses.

Fast food litter on a Langley City street. Select image to enlarge.

If you are reading this post, you are likely not intentionally littering, but there are still ways that you can help out.

Langley City has a Point of Pride program for adopting a section of street, park, or trail. The City will provide bags, tongs, and gloves. To show gratitude, the City will put a marker on the area adopted to recognize you or your groups. You can visit Langley City’s website to learn more about the program.

Another source of litter is from overflowing street garbage cans. The City has been increasing the capacity at locations where street garbage cans get full regularly. If you have garbage you want to throw out and notice that the street garbage can is full, please hold on to it; otherwise, it might just turn into litter.

The other source of litter is from private garbage bins that are insecure. Wind, raccoons, and crows will convert this garbage to litter in short order. Please make sure that your garbage bins close securely and are not prone to tipping over.

While we will never get rid of all litter, there are practical ways to help reduce the amount of trash in Langley City.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Practical Crime Prevention Tips for Langley Businesses

Over the last several years, Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group has focused on connecting with residents in our community to share information on reducing crime. Providing crime prevention tips for the business community has always been in the Task Group’s mandate. The group has worked with City staff to include information about crime prevention with business licenses in the past. This year the Task Group wanted to focus again on the business community.

The Task Group was planning to go door-to-door, sharing crime prevention information with business owners, but we had to change our approach. On the Crime Prevention Task Group’s advice, the Langley detachment of the RCMP created an online video series about crime prevention through environmental design.

There are eight short videos in the series with practical advice on reducing crime around and in stores.