Thursday, November 25, 2021

Help Make Christmas Merry for All Families in Langley. Your Support is Needed.

Merry Christmas

The Langley Christmas Bureau helps ensure that all families in our community can enjoy a merry Christmas by providing support to buy toys for each child in a family and food for a Christmas meal.

The Bureau’s goal is to raise $280,000 this year. Unfortunately, donations are lower than expected this year, so the Bureau needs your help.

A $50 donation will buy a toy for one child. A $350 donation will buy toys and a meal for a family of four.

Any amount will help. To donation, please visit https://www.langleychristmasbureau.com/financial-donations/

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

November 22nd Council Notes: Development Proposals

On Monday afternoon, Langley City Council gave first and second reading to a suite of bylaws which will allow for City staff to schedule a public hearing for the following development proposals:

A 30-unit, double-wide garage townhouse project at the southeast corner of 54th Avenue and 198th Street.

Rendering of proposed townhouse project at 5364-5380 198 Street & 19824 54 Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

A 5-storey, 86-unit apartment project on 53A Avenue, at the corner of 201 A Street.

Rendering of proposed project at 20120-20170 53A Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

A 6-storey, 200-apartment unit with 16,000 sq. ft. of ground-level commercial mixed-use project at the corner of Fraser Highway and 208th Street

Rendering of proposed project at 20785 Fraser Highway. Select image to enlarge.

Council also gave the final reading to a rezoning bylaw and issued the development permit to allow the construction of a 4-storey, 62-unit apartment building at the northeast corner of 54th Avenue and 198th Street. This project had a public hearing and received third reading back in April 2017. This project stalled because it exchanged owners.


Rendering of proposed apartment building located at 198 Street and 54 Avenue. Select image to enlarge.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Langley City’s new Official Community Plan adopted. Council asks for an affordable purpose-built rental policy.

Langley City is a member municipality of the Metro Vancouver Regional District. In our region, municipal Official Community Plans must be consistent with regional growth strategies. Langley City Council sent our new proposed Official Community Plan to the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board for approval back in July. The Official Community Plan contains “regional context statements” that show how the Official Community Plan’s policies are consistent with the regional growth strategy.

On October 29th, the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board approved Langley City’s Official Community Plan.

Metro Vancouver staff pointed out that Langley City’s new Official Community Plan further enhances regional objectives by adding 13.8 ha of land to the Mixed Employment regional land use designation. This designation preserves land for non-residential commercial and light industrial uses.

Additional employment land in red outlines with salmon-coloured inside. Select map to enlarge.

Langley City’s new Official Community Plan also supports the regional district’s industrial land strategy by protecting “remaining industrial land, intensify and optimize industrial lands, and bring the existing land supply to market.”

I’m proud that Langley City continues to support enhancing our region’s objectives.

With Metro Vancouver Regional District Board approval, Langley City Council adopted its new Official Community Plan yesterday afternoon, concluding a process that started in 2019. This new plan will now help guide our community’s future for the next several decades.

New land-use map for Langley City. Select map to enlarge.

For more information about the Official Community Plan, please visit Langley City’s website.

Langley City staff are currently working on an updated zoning bylaw that will implement the policy objectives of the new Official Community Plan.

While Langley City’s Official Community Plan has a one-for-one replacement policy for purpose-built rental units, it is silent on the affordability of those rental units. Older purpose-built rental units have lower market rents than newer units, so when these units are replaced, the market rents will be significantly higher than before.

Langley City Council passed the following motion, which I proposed:

THAT in the 2022 capital budget, staff include a line item for creating a below-market rate rental policy to be applied when older purpose-built rental buildings undergo redevelopment;
THAT staff investigate, as part of the policy development, requiring a prescribed percentage of new rental units to have below-market rental rates, secured through a housing agreement, on the site of older purpose-built rental buildings that are redeveloped; and,
THAT staff investigate, as part of the policy development, opportunities to rehouse people displaced due to the redevelopment of older purpose-built rental buildings within their existing neighbourhood.

Monday, November 22, 2021

2015 Provincial Report: Almost All Dikes Substandard in Lower Mainland

The Lower Mainland is a floodplain. Before we began diking works around the Lower Mainland, flooding was part of the natural cycle. The great flood of 1894 kicked the construction of dikes into high gear.

In the Lower Mainland, dikes are the responsibility of municipalities or special purpose diking districts. The provincial government is responsible for regulating dikes, including inspecting dikes.

The provincial government commissioned a report called “Lower Mainland Dike Assessment” which was completed in 2015. The report’s authors found that “almost all of the dikes are substandard and most will not withstand the provincially adopted design flood events.”

They also found that “in considering dike crest elevations relative to design flood levels, only 4% of the dike segments are high enough to contain the present design event.” Dike crest elevation determines how much water level rise a dike can handle before failure occurs.

Altogether, this means that our diking system is not meeting its original flood protection design.

Getting the dike network up to modern standards, which includes accounting for climate change impacts, is cost-prohibitive for municipalities and diking authorities.

The report authors made 11 recommendations of which the following stand out:

  • In connection with the Lower Mainland flood vulnerability assessment currently underway, identify which dikes most urgently need upgrading in terms of assets at risk and the substandard quality of particular dikes. Prioritize the necessary upgrades.
  • Develop comprehensive flood management plans that consider a range of structural and non‐structural flood management strategies in addition to dikes. These plans must recognize that dikes are not fail‐safe and that in some cases, upgrading dikes to withstand the design events may not be feasible, especially when climate change is considered.
  • Consider establishing an over‐arching agency to lead flood management and develop appropriate funding mechanisms to support comprehensive planning and dike upgrading by diking authorities.

One of the long-standing concerns of municipalities has been the lack of stable, significant funding from the provincial government to upgrade dikes.

With the events of last week, I hope that all orders of government renew their efforts to comprehensively and holistically manage and fund dikes in the Lower Mainland.

The following map shows the state-of-repair for dikes in the Lower Mainland.

Lower Mainland Dike Average Rating. Select map to view.

You can download the full report at: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/water/integrated-flood-hazard-mgmt/nhc_final_lower_mainland_dike_assessment.pdf

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Nicomekl River flow most since at least 1985 in Langley City

Earlier this week, the Nicomekl River spilled its banks into the floodplain and beyond. I posted in September about the river measurement station near the 203rd Street Bridge. This morning, I looked at the historical flows since Environment Canada put the measurement station into service in 1985.

Nicomekl River Floodplain

Previous to this week, the maximum flow was 61.6 m3/sec in 2009. On Monday, November 15th, the flow was 76.9 m3/sec.

Annual Daily Extremes - Flow, Nicomekl River at 203rd Street. Select graph to enlarge. Source: Environment Canada

Environment Canada started taking level measurements in 2011.

Annual Daily Extremes - Level, Nicomekl River at 203rd Street. Select graph to enlarge. Source: Environment Canada

The river was at a peak height of 4.63m on Monday.

Realtime Flow and Level Data, Nicomekl River at 203rd Street. Select graph to enlarge. Source: Environment Canada

All that to say, Langley City experienced the highest level of the Nicomekl River and most localized flooding in my lifetime.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Provincial government to allow municipalities to eliminate development public hearings

Housing affordability spans a continuum from supportive housing for people with complex needs to subsidized housing, below-market rental housing, market rental housing, and housing ownership. Municipalities have some power to control the creation of below-market rental, market rental, and ownership units.

One of the ways to lower the cost of housing is to increase the supply. In some municipalities, red tape and unpredictable processes limit the development of new housing units.

The classic example would be the City of Vancouver, where housing projects have slow processing times at City Hall and unpredictable council processes.

Langley City has fast processing times, and if housing projects follow Langley City’s policies, a predictable council process.

The provincial government is looking to speed up approval of development projects consistent with a community’s Official Community Plan. Official Community Plans go through a comprehensive engagement and creation process. Langley City’s proposed new Official Community Plan started in 2019 and will likely be adopted next week. This process took two years.

In some municipalities, public hearings for projects can last for days and involve extremely heated conversation, even if a project is consistent with an Official Community Plan.

The province is changing the Local Government Act to give municipalities the option not to hold public hearings for projects that are consistent with their Official Community Plan.

The province is also changing the Act to allow municipal staff to issue development variance permits for minor variances to projects around the location, size and dimensions of buildings, parking requirements, signs, and landscaping. Today these must go to councils for approval.

It will be up to each municipal council in BC to consider whether to use the province’s new options.

Speeding up the time it takes for projects to go through City Hall and Council is only one part of the puzzle to building more affordable housing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Langley City: Building with flooding in mind

With significant flooding starting yesterday in Langley City caused by an “atmospheric river” rain event, many people might be wondering what the municipality does to reduce the severity of damage and danger caused by flooding.

Flooding along 208th Street.

The first guard is the floodplain which can accommodate seasonal flooding. For flooding occurring every 1 in 10 years, you will see localized road closures and parkade flooding like yesterday. 1 in 200-year events will see more significant flooding.

The following map shows the three stages of flooding events. The darkest blue is regular seasonal flooding, the lighter blue is 1 in 10-year flooding, and the lightest blue is 1 in 200-year flooding.

Flooding event map. Select map to enlarge.

Langley City’s new Official Community Plan states that “habitable space and storage in the floodplain [be] at or above the flood construction levels and [that the City] update flood construction levels to account for the impacts of climate change.”

The following map shows the sections of Langley City where the flood construction level bylaw applies and the 1 in 200-year flooding boundary.

Flood construction level map. Select map to enlarge.

Most apartments in this area will see their parkades flood today during a 1 in 200-year flooding event. However, there are older houses and commercial buildings that will flood from before the City had a flood construction level bylaw.

If you see buildings with parkades that jut above the ground level, one of the reasons they extend above the ground level is to protect from flooding.

Langley City’s latest floodplain elevation bylaw is from 2010.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Developer Contributions to Infrastructure Projects in Langley City

Over the weekend, I spoke with a resident. He asked if developers pay for infrastructure upgrades when building new projects. He was surprised when I said that developers do indeed pay for upgrading infrastructure.

Development project

At the most basic level, the City requires developers to upgrade the sidewalk, streetlights, hydro, roadway, and lane directly around a project site. In some cases, the City will collect money from developers in an area with a lot of development activity to make improvements in one go. This “banking” is why 198th Street in the Brydon area isn’t fully paved yet, as an example.

In BC, the provincial government allows municipalities, regional districts, school boards, and TransLink to require developers to contribute funding for specific infrastructure projects to accommodate growth due to development projects. The following table outlines the current charges for projects in Langley City.

Development Cost Charges in Langley City. Select table to enlarge.

Munipcailities must have these infrastructure projects vetted by the provincial government. As I’ve posted previously, the province’s Development Cost Charge qualification requirements sometimes border on the absurd. For example, Langley City could fund a baseball diamond with Development Cost Charge funds, but not a tennis court.

This is why the City also asks developers to voluntarily contribute $2,000 per townhouse or apartment unit into Langley City’s Community Amenity Contributions fund. The City uses this fund for infrastructure projects that would not qualify under the provincially regulated Developer Cost Charges program, but are still required due to population growth caused by development projects.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Remembrance Day Ceremonies in Langley

Langley City will not be holding an in-person Remembrance Day ceremony in Douglas Park this year out of an abundance of caution to ensure that people remain safe in our community. In its place, you can view the Langley City Remembrance Day ceremony video.

You can also view a live stream of the Murrayville Cenotaph Remembrance Day Ceremony and Fort Langley Remembers starting around 10:30 am on Thursday.

The Murrayville ceremony organizers will allow people to attend in person. There will be no in-person access for the Fort Langley ceremony.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Volunteer on a Langley City’s board or task group. Have your say on City issues and get involved in your community.

One of the ways that you can have direct input into the running of local government in Langley City is to volunteer one of Council’s boards or task groups. These boards and groups usually meet monthly. Some task groups are hands-on, such as the Crime Prevention Task Group, where volunteers plan and attend community events. In contrast, others dive deep into policies, making recommendations to Council, such as the Advisory Design Panel.

Former Crime Prevention Task Group Volunteers

The following boards and groups have vacancies for the 2022 year.

Advisory Design Panel - Make recommendations on form, character and urban design quality of development applications. Looking for members from the general public.

Board of Variance - Independent board hears requests for relaxation of regulations for siting, size and dimensions of buildings that do not conform with Langley City’s bylaws. Looking for members from the general public.

Crime Prevention Task Group - Help educate people about crime prevention, targeting crime hotspots. Includes planning and attending in-person and virtual events, and creating informational material. Looking for members from the general public and a youth representative (age 15-24.)

Environmental Task Group - Prioritize, evaluate and develop business cases for implementing environmental initiatives. Looking for members from the general public, a youth representative (age 15-24,) and a representative who is attending a post-secondary institute.

Arts & Culture Task Group - Prioritize, evaluate and develop business cases for implementing arts and culture initiatives, including public art. Looking for a youth representative (age 15-24.)

Council appoints volunteers for a one-year term except for the Board of Variance, where members serve a three-year term.

For more information on how to volunteer, please visit Langley City’s website. You can apply directly online. The deadline is Friday, November 26, 2021.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Major Langley City Construction Projects

Several construction projects are occurring throughout Langley City. 200th Street has seen its fair share of construction projects over the last decade, whether replacing the Metro Vancouver Regional District sanitary sewer trunk, the renewal of the Nicomekl River bridge, traffic light upgrades, or repaving. The latest project is to replace the Langley City sewer lines under 200th Street between 49th Avenue and the river.

Pipe bursting in action

The City and its contractor are using trenchless pipe bursting to renew the sewer line. This method reduces the amount of 200th Street that crews need to dig up and helps minimize construction time, costs, and impacts.

Two of the other projects well underway are the Glover Road underground utility renewal and safer cycling lanes project, and the 208th Street Causeway safer cycling lanes project. The City expects both projects to finish in the spring of 2022.

Glover Road project

The 208th Street Causeway project includes adding street trees along the causeway portion of 208th Street. Besides filling in the missing cycling link between Fraser Highway and 52A Avenue, it will also enhance trail connectivity between the Nicomekl Floodplain and Nicomekl Park.

208th Street new cycling lanes

208th Street bridge work

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Council Notes: RCMP Policing Cost Increases, Year of the Garden, Supporting Women in Politics

Langley City, like most municipalities in BC, relies on RCMP contract policing. The federal government and National Police Federation recently concluded the negotiation of their first collective agreement. This collective agreement includes significant pay increases, which go back retroactively until 2017. While Langley City has built up a policing reserve fund over the years, knowing that a collective agreement was forthcoming, this reserve fund with not cover all of the retroactive and current pay increases for RCMP members.

Communtiy Policing Office

Like all municipalities with contract RCMP policing, Langley City has little control of policing costs beyond the number of RCMP members we would like. As a result, there will likely be a significant property tax increase in 2022 due to the new collective agreement. I’m fully supportive of collective agreements.

On Monday, Langley City Council passed the following resolution:

THAT Langley City joins the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in calling on the federal government to absorb all retroactive costs associated with the implementation of the new RCMP labour relations regime
THAT the federal government should commit to ensuring municipalities are properly consulted prior to implementation of measures that impact local fiscal sustainability and ability to maintain effective levels of police services in communities

Council also passed a motion in support of the Year of the Garden 2022, directing our Environmental Task Group “to consider developing educational flyers, promoting the environmental benefits that gardens provide to our quality of life in the city.”

Council passed another motion that Langley City apply for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’s Canadian Women in Local Leadership (CanWILL) grant to create a program that will:

  1. Strengthening the capacity of women, particularly diverse women, to run for elected office
  2. Creating a more conducive context for women leaders to thrive
  3. Enhancing the capacity of municipal stakeholders to address gender-based violence and harassment
  4. Mobilizing knowledge and sharing best practices across municipalities

In Langley City, we can be proud that the majority of our Council is women though there are still barriers preventing racialized, young, and LGBTQ2S+ women from serving in local government.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Council not interested in plastic grass in development projects. Industrial-office and apartment projects received third reading.

On Monday, Langely Council gave third reading for two rezoning bylaws and an Official Community Plan amendment bylaw to enable a 2-building, 59,858 sq. ft industrial-office development at the corner of 56th Avenue and 200th Street as well as a 6-storey, 113-unit apartment building at Michaud Crescent and 200th Street. You can read more about these development proposals in a previous blog post.

Rendering of proposed project at 5370 & 5380 200 Street; 5371 & 5381 200A Street; 20010 & 20020 Michaud Crescent; 20031 53B Avenue.

Rendering of proposed project at 19959, 19971, & 19985 56 Avenue; 5643 & 5647 200 Street.

At the public hearing, residents near the proposed industrial project were concerned about the proposed lane design connecting 199 Street to the proposed project. They were relieved to learn that the City will not be extending the north/south lane through their property at this time. On Monday, staff confirmed that the current east/west lane would be paved and adequately lighted.

One of the major concerns from the Advisory Design Panel, which includes architects and landscape architects, who make recommendations about proposed development projects, is not to use astroturf as a landscaping material for the proposed apartment project. Throughout this process, Council has been clear that it is opposed to astroturf or plastic grass. The proponent of the project has insisted on keeping astroturf in the project. On Monday, the majority of Council stated their opposition to astroturf. I noted that I would not vote in favour of issuing a development permit (which occurs at the same time as fourth and final reading of a rezoning bylaw) if the proponent of the project does not significantly reduce or eliminate the use of astroturf.

Council passed the motion:

THAT staff work to eliminate or significantly minimize the use of synthetic turf surfaces in all in-progress and future development projects.

In the past, Council has heard from the public that they are not interested in seeing astroturf in our community, considering there are other natural alternatives such as xeriscaping.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Creating more inclusive Langley City Task Groups, and new scope for Economic Development Task Group

Yesterday, Langley City Council extended the following task groups by one-year:

  • Arts and Culture Task Group
  • Crime Prevention Task Group
  • Economic Development Task Group
  • Environmental Task Group
  • Performing Arts and Culture Centre Task Group

These task groups provide volunteer opportunities for people to contribute to our community. These volunteers give their time to offer unique perspectives and ideas, which help both Council and staff make better-informed decisions. Some volunteers also provide their labour, whether it is going door-to-door to share crime prevention tips or participating behind the scenes in the Christmas parade.

On some task groups, we have “saved a seat” to make sure we hear from people with certain viewpoints. For example, on the Crime Prevention Task Group, we specifically want one member from the Downtown Langley Business Association, Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, the senior community, and the youth community. Five other positions are open to all members of the public.

Council had a robust and good discussion about inclusion yesterday. The conversation started around ensuring that we “save seats” on our task groups for all Indigenous Nation on whose unceded and traditional lands Langley City is on.

As someone who is part of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, a marginalized community, I mentioned that while it is important to “save a seat,” we shouldn’t stop our good work if we do not fill those seats. There are various reasons why people may not fill those seats.

Many marginalized people are simply busy and do not have time to volunteer. Others would rather not have to educate or explain to others about their lived experiences, barriers, and injustices they’ve faced.

At the council meeting, I noted that as elected people, we must educate ourselves about Indigenous Nations, minority and marginalized communities, including concerning the task groups where we serve.

We may need to pay for experts to deliver this education. We should not expect Indigenous Nations, marginalized or minority groups to provide this education for free.

Council voted to review our task groups to make sure they are more inclusive.

Council also voted to update the terms of reference of the Economic Development Task Group, which will be focusing on:

  • Working with Kwantlen Polytechnic University to support their KPU 2050 Master Plan, including linking it with Langely City’s “Innovation Boulevard” on Glover Road, focusing on student housing, technology, research, media, start-ups, and maker spaces.
  • Encouraging transit-oriented development around the 196 Street and 203 Street SkyTrain stations.
  • Securing capital funding for an iconic destination arts and cultural facility (performing arts centre) in Downtown Langley.

The new terms of reference added seats for one member from the Architectural Institute of British Columbia or the British Columbia Society of Landscape Architects, and one member from an Indigenous Nation on whose unceded and traditional lands Langley City is on.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Have your say in Langley City’s transportation future. Win 100 Downtown Dollars.

Langley City last updated its Master Transportation Plan in 2014. With the completion of the new Official Community Plan, City staff are now creating a new Master Transportation Plan.

Langley City’s Official Community Plan has the following objectives when it comes to transportation:

  • Integrate sidewalks, paths, and trails in all places.
  • Place destinations (shops, services, schools, recreation) in proximity of homes.
  • Provide a journey that is safe and pleasant (whether walking, rolling, cycling, taking transit, or driving.)
  • Encourage cycling and transit for longer distances.
  • Leverage rapid transit investment.

When creating long-term master plans, it is important to get public input. Langley City is asking for your feedback on the new Master Transportation Plan.

The City would like you to participate in a survey which will take around 15 minutes to complete. During the survey, you can provide feedback on your transportation priorities, the impacts COVID-19 has on your travel, and what you would like to see improved regarding walking, rolling, cycling, taking transit, and driving. The survey also has some questions about school access for children.

The City also has an interactive map where you can provide direct input on specific strengths and weaknesses of the transportation system in our community. For example, you can place a dot on the map and write, “missing a crosswalk.”

Strengths and Weaknesses Map.

If you complete the survey, the City will enter you into a draw to win 100 Downtown Dollars, which you can use at over 100 Downtown Langley businesses.

Take Langley City’s Official Survey and Complete the Map