Monday, October 4, 2021

Langley City redevelopment supports school sites in Township

Langley City shares a school district and school board with the Township of Langley. One tool available for school districts to acquire new property for new schools is the School Site Acquisition Charge. The school board levies this Charge on every new residential development.

On the surface, the School Site Acquisition Charge makes a lot of sense. As municipalities approve new residential neighbourhoods, the school board can acquire new land for schools. This Charge makes sense in communities sprawling out, not in communities like Langley City, which are fully built out and have been for over 30 years.

School boards cannot use the School Site Acquisition Charge to expand existing schools.

Langley City has an ongoing issue with the School Site Acquisition Charge because the provincial government requires that it be applied school district-wide.

The School Site Acquisition Charge must be approved by municipal councils, but if a council rejects the Charge, it goes through a dispute resolution process that ultimately ends with the provincial government making a discussion about the Charge.

Langley City rejected the Charge in 2013 because it only supported Township students and schools, but still applied to new residential developments in the City. The provincial government ruled in favour of the school board.

The school board is updating the School Site Acquisition Charge as follows:

Low Density - Per Single-Family House: $1,000
Medium Low Density (21-50 units/ha) - Per Townhouse: $900
Medium Density (51-125 units/ha) - Per Apartment Unit: $800
Medium High Density (126-200 units/ha) - Per Apartment Unit: $700
High Density (>200 units/ha) - Per Apartment Unit: $600

The school board will collect this Charge in Langley City to support school sites in Willoughby and Brookswood/Fernridge.

Langley City Council approved this Charge last Monday because history shows that the province would likely favour the school board in a dispute resolution process.

I understand the value of a School Site Acquisition Charge, but it does encourage sprawl. A better approach would be a School Acquisition Charge, which would help pay for new schools or expanding existing schools due to residential development. This change would encourage the redevelopment of older schools and discourage sprawl.

As a note, the school board predicts that 5,164 additional students will enroll in Township schools over the next decade. The school board expects 490 additional students in the City over the next decade.

According to the school board, “due to the lower planned development numbers for the City of Langley, the students will need to be accommodated in existing buildings with possible additions to some schools to accommodate the growth.”

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