Thursday, May 13, 2021

Langley City received grants from ICBC, TransLink, and UBCM to help fund capital works projects

As I posted about Tuesday, Langley City must reconcile its budget with its actual financial results annually per provincial law. I posted about the difference in the financial plan operating budget and reserve accounts.

Today, I’ll highlight some of the changes in the capital projects plan. Capital projects are one-off initiatives such as updating the Offical Community Plan or creating new or significantly renewed tangible infrastructure such as replacing a traffic light or building a new washroom in a park.

  • Traffic Signal Upgrade - 203 St & Industrial Ave: Additional $62,500 grant from ICBC
  • Traffic Signal Upgrade - 200 St & Logan Ave: Additional $5,000 grant from ICBC
  • Traffic Signal Upgrade - 200 St & 53 Ave: Additional $2,500 grant from ICBC
  • Backup Battery Power Supplies for Traffic Signals: Additional $5,000 grant from ICBC
  • Traffic Calming: Additional $3,000 grant from ICBC
  • Douglas Crescent Renewal, 206 St to 208 St: Additional $4,000 grant from ICBC
  • Grade Crescent, 208 Street Median & 201A Street Crosswalk: Additional $24,000 grant from ICBC
  • Baldi Creek Pedestrian Bridge: $638,000 cost to be funded by developers in the area as opposed to a grant as orginally planned
  • Affordable Housing Strategy: Additional $40,000 grant from UBCM
  • Duncan Way Multiuse Path: Additional $9,500 grant from TransLink
  • Bicycle Facilities: Additional $10,450 grant from Coast Mountain Bus Company (TransLink)

These grants mean that the City can invest around $160,000 in capital funding into other projects.

City Council also approved the tax rate and tax penalty payment fees and schedule for this year. You can read more about this in a previous post.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

May 10 Council Notes: Two new mixed-use projects. Public hearing for an apartment project.

On Monday, Langley City Council issued a development permit to construct a 6-storey, 70-unit building with three ground-level live/work units and 67 rental apartments on the other floors. The apartment’s location will be at the corner of Glover Road and Eastleigh Crescent.

The apartment mix is 25 one-bedroom units, 5 one-bedroom plus den units, 36 two-bedroom units, 2 one-bedroom live/work units, 1 two-bedroom live/work unit, and one studio. The live/work units would be suitable for businesses such as accounting or personal services such as a hairstylist.

The building will have a garbage room that can accommodate large bins for garbage and recycling, all bedrooms will have fully operable windows, and the main bedrooms will accommodate a queen bed. The second bedrooms will accommodate a double/full bed. The building will also have an on-site loading zone.

View of proposed apartment from the corner of Glover Road and Eastleigh Crescent. 5724 & 5744 Glover Road. Select rendering to enlarge.

Council also gave first and second reading to two bylaws to accommodate a 6-storey mixed-use building at 20059 Fraser Highway. The first bylaw would amend the current Offical Community Plan to incorporate the new “Transit-Oriented Core” designation in the draft new Offical Community Plan. The second bylaw rezones the property to accommodate the proposed building.

View of proposed mixed-use building. 20059 Fraser Highway. Select rendering to enlarge.

The building has 38 one-bedroom units, 50 one-bedroom plus flex units, and 10 two-bedroom units. In addition, the ground floor has two 2,098 square foot commercial units. A coffee shop would be able to fit comfortably into one of the units.

The building includes two elevators because there are more than 80-units. In addition, it has an on-site loading zone.

Langley City’s Advisory Design Panel made eight recommendations focused on enhancing and expanding the rooftop amenity space, improving the lobby, increasing landscaping, adding outdoor amenity space on the second floor, and updating the building’s facades.

The applicant did not expand the rooftop amenity space, but did update the building to incorporate the other recommendations of the Advisory Design Panel.

City staff will now schedule a public hearing for this project.

Council also held a public hearing for a proposed 5-storey, 62-unit apartment located at 56th Avenue and 201A Street, which I posted about previously.

View of proposed apartment from the corner of 201A Street and 56th Avenue. 5609 201A Street. Select rendering to enlarge.

Council received one email from a resident concerned that people living in the apartment will create more car traffic. At the public hearing, a resident in virtual attendance was worried that the building would block the view of the mountains from her apartment.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

COVID-19 pandemic impacts on Langley City’s 2020 finances

As per provincial law, municipalities in BC must reconcile their previous year’s budget with their actual financial results. Municipalities must also have their financial results independently audited annually.

Langley City’s independent auditor presented to Council about her audit of the City’s financials. She did not raise any red flags to Council.

The following sections highlight some of the significant differences between the 2020 budget, which Council approved, and staff developed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff budgeted $7.2 million in gaming proceeds from the casino, but because the casino closed at the start of the pandemic, the City only received $1.5 million in proceeds. However, the federal/provincial COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant of $4.2 million that the City received helped offset this loss in proceeds.

City staff budgeted $31.8 million in property tax revenue for 2020. Instead, the City collected $30.4 million in property tax. This $1.4 million gap was due to the COVID-19 pandemic creating financial hardships for property owners.

Overall planned spending was reduced from $52.9 million to $48.5 million, a difference of $4.4 million. This reduction was mainly due to unfilled staff positions and closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also interesting to note was a reduction in water usage in 2020. In addition, the City’s conversion of streetlights to LED resulted in a $49,000 reduction in maintenance costs. Costs associated with vandalism and expenses related to cleaning up campsites in our parks were $58,000 over budget in 2020.

The City transfers a portion of the revenue received to reserve accounts. Reserve accounts are used to fund building and renewing City infrastructure and one-off initiatives such as updating the Offical Community Plan.

The City transferred the cost savings of $494,583 in policing to the “future police costs” reserve account. The City also topped up the prosperity fund by $1 million. While the City transferred $5.6 million less to the gaming proceeds reserve than budgeted, it transferred $5.3 million more than budgeted to the capital works reserve due to the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant and operational savings.

Overall, the City is in good financial health.

For more information, please read the staff report on the 2020 financials as well as a draft of the 2020 Consolidated Financial Statements.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Spring Metro Vancouver Council of Councils Meeting: Budgets, Metro 2050 Regional Growth Strategy, TransLink’s Transport 2050 Strategy

Twice a year, elected local representatives gather for a Metro Vancouver Regional District Council of Councils meeting. During the meeting, we hear updates from regional district staff and have the opportunity to ask questions of regional district staff.

On Saturday, around 120 local representatives attended a Zoom meeting.

I virtually attended Saturday’s Metro Vancouver Council of Councils meeting.

Regional district staff noted that the 2021 operation budget is $939.5 million, with the loin’s share of expense for water and liquid waste services. The capital budget for 2021 is $1.5 billion, funding significant wastewater treatment plant new-builds and renewals. The capital budget is funding by a combination of operation budget contributions, developer charges, and debt.

Staff also noted that they are continually looking to find new revenue streams and cost-saving opportunities. For example, they said selling natural gas as a byproduction of liquid waste management is a new revenue stream.

Metro Vancouver’s Climate Action Committee chair presented roadmaps for our region to become carbon neutral by 2050. One of the direct actions that municipalities can take is to adopt higher steps of the BC Energy Step Code. Metro Vancouver will encourage all municipalities to adopt Step 4 or 5.

I posted the transportation and housing updates for Metro 2050, the region’s proposed updated new regional growth strategy, last week. Regional district staff highlighted Metro 2050, including:

  • Creating a compact urban area
  • Strengthening the Urban Contain Boundary by focusing growth in urban centres and transit corridors
  • Protecting industrial land, local food production, and food security
  • Protecting conservation and recreation land
  • Protecting, restoring, and connecting ecosystems throughout the region by ensuring 50% of the region is natural areas
  • Reducing GHG emissions through land-use and settlement patterns.
  • Expanding the variety and supply of housing
  • Increasing affordable housing with a focus on affordable housing near transit
  • Supporting sustainable transportation choices like walking, cycling, and transit

Metro Vancouver staff stated that housing affordability is still the most significant concern among elected officials.

TransLink is also working on Transport 2050, which is the region’s transportation strategy. TransLink and Metro Vancouver staff are coordinating both Metro 2050 and Transport 2050.

The goals of Transport 2050 are to increase convenient, reliable, affordable, safe & comfortable, and carbon-free transportation options.

The plan has the following goals:

  • People take 50% of all trips by walking, cycling, or transit
  • People spend 20% less time stuck in congestion compared to 2019
  • People spend no more than 45% of their income on housing and transportation
  • There are no serious traffic injuries or fatalities, with reductions every year
  • By 2030, transportation-related GHG emissions will be cut in half and be zero in 2050

TransLink is making a big push for Vision Zero and slower streets in Transport 2050. TransLink staff also noted that they are looking at interregional rail to Squamish and the Fraser Valley in Transport 2050.

On autonomous vehicles, TransLink will be pushing a car-sharing model; otherwise, if we all own autonomous vehicles, there will be a massive increase in congestion.

Metro Vancouver staff noted that they are improving public notification and alerting around the Cleveland Dam and the Capilano River.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Outdoor seating for restaurants, breweries, and caf├ęs increase positive energy in Downtown Langley

This last year has been extremely challenging for businesses and people that work in the hospitality, food, and beverage sector. Yet, I’ve seen the resiliency and adaptability of both business owners and workers.

I’ve seen an increase in the number of businesses that have created outdoor seating spaces in parking lots, sidewalks, and plazas. While it is a product of necessity, it has also enhanced the vibrancy of our Downtown by increasing positive activity.

Over the weekend, I noticed that some of the surface parking lots in Downtown Langley are hosting outdoor seating spaces. It brought some positive activity to areas that generally see little activity.

Outdoor seating for Brogan’s Diner and Farm Country Brewing. Select image to enlarge.

This seating compliments the sidewalk and plaza seating which has been around for the last little bit.

Outdoor seating behind Viva Mexico Restaurant. Select image to enlarge.

While everyone is eager for the safe return of indoor seating, I hope that the experience of outdoor seating will become a seasonal fixture in our Downtown as it adds positive energy and excitement to our civic core.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Metro Vancouver Regional District looking to improve walkability, support the transition to EVs, and reduce the negative impacts of goods movement on people’s health

As I posted yesterday, Metro Vancouver Regional District staff are updating the Regional Growth Strategy. All municipalities must adhere to this strategy, and all municipal councils must agree to adopt the strategy. As a result, the region only updates this strategy every 15 years. The name of the updated strategy is Metro 2050.

Yesterday’s post focused on proposed updates to the strategy to strengthen policies for affordable housing and housing for people with lower incomes. Today, I will post about updates to the strategy’s goal to support sustainable transportation choices such as using transit, cycling, walking, or wheeling as well as goods movement.

Metro 2050 will align with TransLink’s Transport 2050 long-range plan. Metro 2050 addresses land-use policies that impact people’s transportation choices, while Transport 2050 will focus on delivering regional transportation infrastructure and transit service.

Municipalities in our region will be required to update their Offical Community Plans to show:

  • How their land-use policies will encourage more people to walk, cycle, take transit, or carpool
  • How they will enhance walkability, including providing an accessible, grid-like pedestrian network
  • How they will support managing parking supply, implementing transit priority measures, rideshare, mobility pricing, and car-sharing
  • How they will support the transition to zero-emission vehicles such as requiring EV charging in new multifamily housing
  • How they will support the completion of the Regional Greenways 2050 plan
  • How they will coordinate with adjacent jurisdictions for inter-connectivity
  • Safe and efficient routes for moving goods and service vehicles
  • Land-use and other policies to optimize the transportation of goods from industrial areas to shipping facilities such as ports, airports, railways, and major highways
  • Land-use policies that support e-commerce distribution
  • Policies and actions to minimize public exposure to unhealthy levels of noise, vibration, and pollution caused by the use of major transportation corridors

For more information, please read the May 7th Regional Planning Committee agenda.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Metro Vancouver Regional District looking to strengthen affordable housing requirements

Every member jurisdiction in the Metro Vancouver Regional District must align their Official Community Plans to the Regional Growth Strategy; Langley City’s current and future Official Community Plan must align with the Regional Growth Strategy.

Each municipality’s Official Community Plan must contain “regional context statements” that bind its Official Community Plan to the Regional Growth Strategy. The statement must be truthful and accurate. For example, if the Regional Growth Strategy designated an area for Industrial uses, the Official Community Plan and Zoning must also designate the same area for Industrial uses.

Because 21 municipalities must adopt the Regional Growth Strategy by consensus, significant updates to the strategy only occur around every 15 years. The regional district is currently updating the Regional Growth Strategy, which will be called Metro 2050.

One of Metro Vancouver staff’s goals is for municipalities to provide more diverse and affordable housing choices. Affordable housing is a significant challenge in our region.

The proposed updated Regional Growth Strategy will require municipalities to update their Official Community Plans to include regional context statements that:

  • Increase the supply of below-market rentals and affordable ownership housing
  • Increase housing tenure options such as ownership, rental, co-op, rent-to-own, and co-housing
  • Increase density, including allowing ground-oriented townhouse, “plexes,” and infill housing such as granny flats, in single-family areas
  • Increase affordability by ensuring people can realistically walk, cycle, or use transit to reduce the need for privately owned vehicles
  • Focus on creating below-market rentals near SkyTrain and along frequent and rapid bus routes
  • Enable the redevelopment of ageing purpose-built rental buildings to market and below-market rental buildings while protecting existing tenants.
  • Protect and renew existing affordable housing
  • Obtain 15% affordable rental units within a municipality in town centres, and along SkyTrain and frequent/rapid bus routes
  • Show how municipalities will work with the federal government, provincial government, and non-profit sector to ensure supportive housing options are available to help people transition from homelessness

I’ve only highlighted some of the updates that will enable the regional goal of creating more diverse and affordable housing in Metro Vancouver.

If the updated Regional Growth Strategy is adopted, these requirements will become binding for all municipalities in Metro Vancouver.

Affordable housing for our region means that households with a total income of $85,000 would spend no more than 30% of their income on housing costs and utilities.

For more information, please read the May 7th Regional Planning Committee agenda.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Crime Prevention Tips: Phone Fraud and Door-to-Door Canvassers

Langley City’s Crime Prevention Task Group released its latest safety tips poster. This poster is about phone fraud prevention.

Crime Prevention Task Group Flyer Tip 5 Phone Fraud

If someone calls you demanding money, it is OK to say no.

Never give out your personal information such as your address, social insurance number, or banking information to someone who calls you.

Beware of the CRA calling you demanding money via Interac e-transfer, prepaid credit cards, or gift cards.

You do not need to respond right away. You can always tell a caller that you will call them back after thinking about things.

You can download the crime prevention tips poster to distribute or print.

Langley City council approves all organizations that canvas door-to-door for money. Last Monday, City Council approved Globalfaces Direct to canvas on behalf of:

  • Plan International Canada
  • Canadian Institute for the Blind
  • Unicef Canada
  • Save the Children Canada
  • Children Believe Canada

If someone comes to your door, canvassing on behalf of an organization, they must provide a copy of their approved application for canvasing in Langley City and produce it upon request of any member of the public.

If someone comes to your door canvassing and cannot produce their approved application, or something doesn’t feel right, call the City at 604-514-2800. If possible, please get the name of the organization they are purporting to canvas for.