Thursday, March 4, 2021

Moving beyond lip service to protect our region’s shrinking industrial land base

For about five years now, Metro Vancouver Regional District staff and the business community have been raising the alarm about our region’s shrinking industrial land base. Industrial lands support 26% of the jobs in our region.

Industrial land in Metro Vancouver. Total Inventory by Detailed Type of Land Use (2015). Source: Metro Vancouver Regional District

The industrial land base is shrinking due to other land-uses such as residential, retail, and office.

To convert industrial land to other uses today, a majority vote of the municipality in which the land resides plus a majority vote of the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board is required. As I posted recently, regional district staff proposed that the regional voting threshold increase to a two-thirds majority vote.

Unfortunately, the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board recently voted against this proposal. The Board includes mayors and councillors appointed by their respective municipalities. Votes are weighted based on the population each Board Director represents.

I was extremely disappointed that most Directors voted against increasing the protection of our industrial land base.

Another challenge in our region is that industrial land is defined differently within each municipality. These differences cause non-industrial uses to crop up in industrially zoned land such as retail, showrooms, and offices.

Metro Vancouver Regional District staff propose updating the regional definition of industrial land to:

Industrial areas are primarily intended for heavy and light industrial activities including: distribution, warehousing, repair, construction yards, infrastructure, outdoor storage, wholesale, trade, e-commerce, emerging technology-driven forms of industry, and appropriately-related and scaled accessory uses.
The intensification and densification of industrial activities and forms are encouraged, which are contextually appropriate to the surrounding community. Limited industrial-serving commercial uses that support the primary industrial functions are appropriate. Residential uses are not intended.

Langley City permits building supply stores, indoor recreation facilities, call centres, and some office uses within industrial zones. Langley City will have to update its permitted uses within industrially zoned land if the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board updates the definition of industrial uses. Current businesses would be grandfathered.

Since being elected to Langley City council, I’ve heard many elected representatives talk about the importance of protecting our industrial land base. I hope we can turn that talk into action.

No comments: