Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Magic of Christmas Fevistal and Artisan Craft Market This Weekend

Langley City Council at Last Year's Event

December is just around the corner, meaning the Langley City Magic of Christmas Festival is happening this weekend!

Come by Timms Community Centre on Saturday, December 2, from noon to 6:00 pm. There will be activities and entertainment for everyone.

Activities include seeing Bruce Waugh create a snow sculpture, kids' crafts, and carnival games.

Food trucks like Big Chip Truck, Beavertails, and Greater Vancouver Beer Truck will also be there.

You can also check out the Langley Arts Council's Artisan Craft Market from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday and 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sunday inside Timms Community Centre. There will be over 30 local artisan booths.

Rain, snow, or shine, you don't want to miss Langley City's official kick-off to the Christmas season!

For more information, including details about the entertainment schedule and artisans, please visit Langley City's Magic of Christmas webpage.

Monday, November 27, 2023

What Bus Rapid Transit Means for Langley City, Township, and Maple Ridge

A few weeks ago, the TransLink Mayors' Council announced the first three Bus Rapid Transit routes we will build in Metro Vancouver.

Learn more about Bus Rapid Transit in Langley City, Township, and Maple Ridge, including how it will support fast, frequent, affordable travel options, giving people and businesses more opportunity.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Metro Vancouver Mayors Ask Feds to Fund $2.9 Billion in Need Transportation Investments

RapidBus at Coquitlam Central

In September, the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation announced the $21 billion Access for Everyone plan. This transportation plan will keep our region moving over the next decade with generational investments in rapid transit, buses, walking, and cycling. The plan will also keep our regional roads and bridges in good repair.

The region cannot do this alone, and as in the past, it will require the continued partnership of the federal and provincial governments. To secure funding for transportation in Metro Vancouver, local governments advocate to their local MPs and MLAs. As a region, we also go on political road shows to Ottawa and Victoria to pitch our vision. Another way that the Mayors’ Council advocates is via Pre-Budget Submissions. These documents are sent to the provincial and federal governments, making the case on why and where they should invest money.

At today’s TransLink Mayors’ Council meeting, our region’s mayors (including myself) supported sending in the following funding requests for the 2024-25 federal budget.

  • Add bus depot capacity to support Bus Rapid Transit and expanded regular bus service to address overcrowding and increase transit access ~$1.4 billion
  • Support building three new Bus Rapid Transit projects ~$900m
    • Park Royal to Metrotown
    • Langley City to Maple Ridge along 200th
    • Surrey to White Rock along King George
  • Expand TransLink’s bus fleet to support growing ridership ~$375 million
  • Upgrade Golden Ears Way to support Bus Rapid Transit and goods movement ~$120 million
  • Deliver walking, cycling, and road safety projects ~$70 million

In total, the ask to the federal government is to support $2.9 billion in projects in next year's federal budget.

As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day, nor will it be securing the funding all at once to support the Access for Everyone Plan. As in the past, I'm hopeful that the federal government will come to the table to support affordable transportation solutions that will keep Metro Vancouver going as our population continues to grow due to increased and needed immigration.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

November 20 Council Notes: Tenant Relocation Policy Update and Housekeeping for 2024

Members of Langley City Council are appointed to various internal committees and external bodies. An example of an internal committee is the Environmental Sustainability Committee, while an example of an external body is the Fraser Valley Regional Library Board. Every year, Langley City Council renews these appointments. This annual process allows members of Council to switch around these appointments if desired.

At its Monday night meeting, Council renewed all the committee appointments, with the only adjustment being replacing Councillor Mack with Councillor Wallace as the alternate for the Gateway of Hope Community Council. You can download the complete list of appointments from Langley City’s website.

Langley City Council approved the 2024 public regular meeting schedule. The dates are:
January 15, 22
February 12, 26
March 4, 18
April 8, 29
May 13, 27
June 3, 17
July 8, 22
September 9, 23
October 7, 21
November 4, 18
December 2, 9

These Council meetings all start at 7 pm.

As I posted about recently, Langley City Council is selling the parking lot at the entrance of the Fraser Highway Oneway to enable a development project at that location. The development project, if approved, will be required to provide the same number of public parking spots as existing in the parking lot today. That parking lot used to be a road, so Langley City Council must approve a bylaw to “close the road.” Council provided an opportunity for people to provide feedback on the road closure at Monday’s meeting. No one provided feedback. As such, Council gave final reading to the road closure bylaw.

Langley City Council gave first, second, and third reading to update our Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw. This update is a housekeeping matter to make the fee amounts similar to the Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw.

One of Council’s strategic priorities is to update our tenant relocation policy. This policy is applied when purpose-built rental buildings undergo redevelopment. The policy is meant to help people find a new place to live, provide compensation above provincial requirements, and allow people to move back once the project is completed below market rents. Council wants to beef up our policy, and to help, Council approved spending $35,000 to hire a land economist consultant to help us update our Tenant Relocation Policy to maximize tenant benefits.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Crime Prevention-Themed Mural for Downtown Langley

One of Langley City's volunteer Crime Prevention Committee mandates is to raise awareness on how people and businesses can support the reduction of crime in our community. The Committee did extensive research and found that a crime prevention-themed mural would be an excellent way to help educate people as murals:

  • Instantly captures people's attention
  • Are low-cost with a huge impact
  • Create a sense of community, beautify urban spaces, express historical and cultural identity, raise awareness about social issues, and inspire creativity and wonder
Examples of locations for crime prevention-themed murals and vehicle wrap.

The Committee recommended that the City consider installing this mural in one of two locations based on a series of metrics, including visibility:

  • Timms Community Centre/City Hall at the northeast entrance wall
  • The southeast wall of McBurney Plaza

The Committee also recommended creating a crime prevention-themed vehicle wrap that could be put on a City-owned fleet vehicle.

Council received a motion from the Committee to have City staff develop the costing for installing a mural and wrapping one vehicle. Council supported this request.

Councillor Albrecht, who chairs the Committee (with Councillor Mack as the co-chair), suggested that once the costing comes back, and if Council approves moving forward, the Crime Prevention Committee would partner with the City's volunteer Arts, Recreation, Culture and Heritage Committee to design the mural and wrap.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Help Guide Zoning in Langley City. Complete the Official Survey

A building under construction

Langley City adopted a new Official Community Plan in November 2021. This document is like the constitution of our community. As such, Langley City staff and Council have been updating many associated plans, bylaws, and policies, such as the Parks, Recreation, and Culture Plan and the Transportation Plan.

The Official Community Plan focuses heavily on land use, what can be built, how it should be built, and where it can be built. The document that enforces land use is the Zoning Bylaw. Langley City's current Zoning Bylaw needs to be updated, and City staff are creating a new one aligned with our Official Community Plan.

Langley City staff and Council want to hear from you about what we should include in the new Zoning Bylaw.

The survey is in two sections with questions around the following areas:

New Uses and Zoning Updates: These are the proposed new regulations related to carriage homes, single detached homes, amenities & open spaces, child care, and cannabis retail.
New Parking Approaches: These are the proposed new regulations related to parking requirements in new developments.

The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete, and your feedback will help guide the creation of one of our community's highest-impact bylaws. Follow the link to complete the survey by December 5th.

Complete the Zoning Bylaw Survey

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Bus Rapid Transit Coming to Langley and other parts of Metro Vancouver

Mayor Dan Ruimy of Maple Ridge and I at 200th Street Bus Rapid Transit Announcement

Today, the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation announced the first wave of bus rapid transit routes for Metro Vancouver to keep our region going. While the current RapidBus network provides frequent service with enhanced bus stops and some bus priority measures, bus rapid transit takes it to the next level. Bus rapid transit exclusively runs in bus-only lanes, has traffic signal priority, and even more enhanced bus stops. Bus rapid transit costs less to build than SkyTrain, so mile for mile, bus rapid transit lets us build more rapid transit quicker. The Mayors' Council's new Access for Everyone Plan main goal is to get frequent and rapid transit to as many people and businesses as possible in the next decade. Up to 11 corridors will see bus rapid transit in the next ten years.

Example of a bus-only lane

The Mayors' Council is directing TransLink to build the first three bus rapid transit routes as follows:

  • King George Boulevard from Surrey Centre to White Rock
  • Langley Centre to Haney Place along 200th Street
  • Metrotown to North Shore
Map of first three bus rapid transit routes in Metro Vancouver. Select the map to enlarge.

The Mayors' Council, working with TransLink staff, selected these routes because they have high ridership potential, increase access to jobs, support housing, are easy to build, and have support for local governments along the route.

For Langley, this will be transformative, increasing access for people in urban Langley from the City to Walnut Grove. I'm excited to see BRT heading to Downtown Langley City, connecting to SkyTrain.

The next steps will be working with the province and federal government to secure funding and nail down the design to build these bus rapid transit routes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Climate Change Increasing Fraser River Flood Risk: The Time to Act Is Now.

In November 2021, the Fraser Valley experienced one of the worst flooding disasters in recent memory due to the spillover of the Nooksack River into Sumas Prairie. The worst flood in the 20th Century was the 1948 Fraser River flood, which resulted in the death of ten people and left 1,500 homeless. The most significant flood in recorded history along the Fraser River occurred in 1894.

The 2021 flood kicked people and governments into high gear. With climate change and decades of underinvestment in flood protection and mitigation, we need to take action to reduce the risk of another devastating flood event.

The Fraser Basin Council is working on a "Pathways to Action for Flood Risk Reduction and Resilience" plan. They recently presented information at the Metro Vancouver Regional District's Flood Resiliency Committee.

The following map shows today's flood risk for various flooding events. This map doesn't take into account the impacts of climate change.

Map of Fraser River flood events today based on different levels of flooding. Select the slide to enlarge.

Overall, things would be OK if climate change wasn't occurring, but it is.

The following map projects what a significant 1894-level flood event would look like in 2050 (orange) and 2100 (purple).

Map of 1894-type Fraser River flood events in 2050 and 2100. Select the slide to enlarge.

By 2050, without investment, Richmond, Delta, Pitt Meadows, Fort Langley, Barnton Island, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack would see significant flooding. By 2100, Richmond, Delta, Abbotsford and Chilliwack would be underwater.

Today's 500-year Fraser River flooding event would cause a $4.8 billion loss of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. With climate change, over the years, this will become worse.

The point of the Fraser Basin Council presentation is to call governments to action. We have time to update our flood planning and work with the provincial and federal governments to invest in flood risk reduction. While 2050 is just around the corner, if we start investing today, we can reduce the risk of flooding impacting people's lives and livelihoods along the Fraser River.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Join a Langley City Committee to Get Involved and Feel a Part of the Community

2019 Crime Prevention Committee members getting ready for Know Your Neighbour.

When I first moved to Langley City, I wanted to get involved in the community. The genesis of this blog was to support the Valley Transporation Advisory Committee in promoting the reactivation of the interurban railway. This group was a grassroots. I also volunteered to join Langley City's Parks, Environment, Arts, and Culture Committee around the same time.

Being a part of the grassroots and official City committees made me feel like I was truly part of the community and was fulfilling.

If you want to get more involved in the Langley City community, consider joining one of Langley City's volunteer committees. These committees make recommendations that feed directly into Langley City Council's decision-making process.

Currently, Council is looking for volunteers to serve on the following committees for a one-year term starting in January 2024.

Environmental Sustainability Committee: Provides advice to Council on environmental issues and trends. The committee is also hands-on, promoting environmental stewardship and awareness in the community.

Arts, Recreation, Culture and Heritage Committee: Provides advice to Council, including making recommendations on arts, cultural, and heritage initiatives and programs that Council should consider implementing. Examples include making recommendations on public art installations or heritage signage installed throughout the community.

Crime Prevention Committee: Creates and shares messages about preventing crime in partnership with the RCMP. This committee is actively involved in community engagement, including attending events, going door-to-door, and raising awareness about what people can do to prevent crime.

Advisory Design Panel: Provide advice to Council on the design of new development proposals in Langley City, evaluated against the City's Official Community Plan. If you are passionate about architecture and how buildings interact with the street and its neighbours, this is the committee to join.

Board of Variance: Unlike other committees, this is a three-year appointment. The Board of Variance is an independent body that addresses requests to relax regulations around the siting and size of the buildings where compliance with the City's zoning bylaw creates "undue hardship." Council cannot overrule this board's decisions.

For more information, including how to join, please visit Langley City's webpage "2024 Board, Panel and Committee Volunteers Wanted!"

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Provincial Changes to Encourage More Housing: Enabling Growth to Pay for Growth, Eliminating Minimum Parking Requirements

An apartment building under construction in Langley City

The provincial government is reforming zoning and how municipalities pay for infrastructure to support development. Last week, the provincial government put forward legislation allowing, by right, people to build 4 units of housing on residential lots in urban areas, increasing to 6 units near frequent transit. In my previous post, you can read about how this may impact Langley City.

Local governments can charge a fee for each new housing unit or commercial/industrial space. It's called a Development Cost Charge. The idea behind these charges is that builders should pay for the local government infrastructure required to support their projects. Local governments can use these fees for sewage, water, drainage, and road infrastructure and for providing and improving parkland. The provincial government is expanding these charges to allow local governments to use them for fire protection, police, and solid waste and recycling facilities. For example, due to redevelopment, Langley City could start collecting a Development Cost Charge to expand our fire hall.

Because these Development Cost Charges have limitations on how they can be used, local governments introduced Community Amenity Contributions. These contributions were a negotiated part of the rezoning process. Because the provincial government is increasing density by right and other legislation introduced yesterday will prescribe density around rapid transit stations, fewer rezonings will happen. The provincial government is also actively encouraging local governments to prezone land to be consistent with Official Community Plans.

For example, Langley City's Official Community Plan allows apartments on 55A Avenue, west of 198th Street. There is land still zoned for single-detached housing in that area. A builder must apply for a rezoning today, which can add processing time. The province doesn't want this to happen. They would rather Langley City already have the land prezoned for apartments.

The province is codifying these Community Amenity Contributions into legalization with the new name Amenity Cost Charges. Local governments can use these charges for a "facility or feature that provides social, cultural, heritage, recreational or environmental benefits to a community." These uses are broad. Like Development Cost Charges, local government can only use Amenity Cost Charges to support infrastructure required due to development or redevelopment. These Amenity Cost Charges are required, meaning no negotiation during rezoning is required.

As I mentioned, the provincial government also introduced legislation to provide a framework for the province to set up transit-oriented development areas and prescribe land use and zoning for these areas that local governments must follow. I could imagine this is to prevent situations like at 22nd Street Station, where there is only single-detached housing around a SkyTrain station. As Langley City already allows the highest density possible, considering the height limitations due to the Langley Regional Airport, this won't impact us except that the province will not allow local governments to set off-street parking space requirements for residential use in those areas. This elimination of parking minimums is something that I support as parking does add a considerable cost to housing (at least $60,000 per spot), and most people within walking distance of SkyTrain will take it. Builders can still include parking spaces, responding to market demand.

The provincial government has been busy reforming land-use and zoning. I can see the goal of these changes is to make it impossible for localized pushback to prevent housing from being built and to lower the cost and time it takes to build housing.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Langley City Emergency Preparedness

Fire Truck

Langley City's Fire Rescue Service continues to enhance our community's emergency preparedness, including by focusing on training and education.

Education is one of the "5 E's" of Community Safety Risk Reduction.

The other "E's" are having an effective emergency response, engineering risk reduction such as through new building designs and safety systems, enforcement to ensure compliance such as by ensuring sprinkler systems are functional, and economic incentives to help guide people to lower risk, such as by providing free smoke alarms or having graduated fines for non-compliance with safety codes.

Langley City has a large floodplain and natural area in the middle of our community. The floodplain increases our risk for climate change-related events, such as winter floods and wildfires in summer.

Langley City Fire Rescue Service applied for a $25,927.80 grant from the UBCM Community Emergency Preparedness Fund to support enhancing education on these climate change risks, including how to suppress wildfires safely, how to reduce wildfire risk including reducing the risk of wildfires from spreading to buildings, and how to provide community education on overall fire risk reduction.

The Fire Rescue Service also applied to purchase a Palmer Dollhouse Ventilation Prop with the grant. This prop helps firefighters understand how fires spread in buildings due to dynamic factors such as airflow.

Langley City Council approved the Fire Rescue Service applying for the grant.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

November 6 Council Notes: Fraser Highway One Way Parking Lot Relocation, Demolishing Buildings Around City Hall/Timms, Truck Parking

Last Monday, Langley City Council gave first, second, and third readings to a bylaw to close the "road" which makes up the parking lot on the left, just after you enter the Fraser Highway One-Way section off 204th Street. This parking lot used to be the alignment of Glover Road when the railway ran down Michaud Crescent and the current Glover Road.

A map of the old section of Glover Road, which is currently a parking lot. Select the map to enlarge.

This bylaw would enable the City to sell the parking lot property if given final reading. If the parking lot is sold, the City would require the future owner to provide the same amount of public parking spots currently in that lot as part of any building project.

The City and Council understand the importance of those parking spots for businesses today. Last night, Council tendered a contract for $555,597.55 with a $55,000 contingency to RDM Enterprises Ltd. to demolish several buildings around City Hall, including the old Langley Hotel. The City owns these properties.

A map of buildings (in blue) to be demolished. Select the map to enlarge.

The City will temporarily use some of these soon-to-be-empty sites for temporary parking to make up for the future closure of the parking lot just off Fraser Highway, as noted in this post, and during the upcoming Fraser Highway One-Way renewal project.

The City plans to use the land around City Hall and Timms Community Centre to expand them and to build a Performing Arts Centre.

Council also gave first, second, and third reading last week and final reading this week to update the City's Highway and Traffic Regulation Bylaw. The update ensure that heavy trucks (semi trucks) can only park on truck routes, not in residential areas or other areas that aren't truck routes.

Monday, November 6, 2023

October 30 Council Notes: New Accessibility Committee, City Receives Safety Award.

At last Monday's Langley City Council meeting, the BC Municipal Safety Association presented the City with the 2023 Organizational Safety Excellence Award. This award recognizes local governments that have been able to reduce WorkSafeBC claims consistently over four years. Council thanked workers and management's combined efforts to create a safer workplace.

As new provincial legislation requires, Langley City has created an accessibility committee. The committee's mandate is to provide advice on creating Langley City's Accessibility Plan and to give feedback on removing and preventing barriers to universal access. Universal access means that people should be able to receive service from the City no matter their physical or mental ability.

In September, the City put out a call for people to join this committee. Council selected the following people to serve on the new accessibility committee:

  • Zosia Ettenberg, person with disabilities representative
  • Ron Bergen, person with disabilities representative
  • Amanda Sangha, person with disabilities representative
  • Kirsten McKitterick, person with disabilities representative
  • Anthony Ormrod, person with disabilities representative
  • Kim Bucholtz, Inclusion Langley representative
  • Elizabeth Keurvorst, member at large

Council also gave final reading to a bylaw that approved the permissive property tax exemptions for 2024. In a previous post, you can read about which organization received a permissive property tax exemption.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Provincial legislation allows a minimum of four units of housing on every lot in Langley City

Yesterday, the provincial Minister of Housing introduced the most significant piece of legislation that will impact local governments and the form of communities in BC since the Community Charter was introduced in 2004.

The Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act, 2023 will, among other things, allow up to 4 units of housing on every lot within urban areas of BC. This legislation will double or quadruple the number of housing units allowed in traditional single-detached housing areas. This change is significant because most urban residential land in BC is currently zoned for single-detached housing.

I'm sure there will be much commentary about this change, but I want to dive deeper into what this means for Langley City.

The following is Langley City's currently approved land-use map.

Langley City land-use map. Select the map to enlarge.

The light yellow "Suburban" zone allows for two housing units today (primary unit and secondary suite.) The new provincial legislation and regulations will allow four housing units for lots larger than 280m2. Langley City's minimum lot size is 350m2.

The dark yellow "Urban Residential" zone allows for up to three housing units today. Again, the new provincial legislation and regulations allow four housing units.

Now, this four housing units per lot is the upper limit. The provincial government will introduce regulation later this year, which will dictate the maximum height of buildings, how far they must be set back from lots lines, and how much of a lot can be taken up by buildings. This regulation may reduce the number of units that can be practically built on a lot.

Further, some lots in Langley City are in environmentally sensitive areas, which may further limit the number of units that can be built.

The provincial government will also regulate parking requirements to enable 4-units per lot. I would expect the parking per unit to be less than our current townhouse/rowhouse requirements in Langley City, which has two parking spots per unit.

Langley City is already working on an on-street parking study, which will have recommendations on how to manage on-street parking.

Based on the current density allowed in the remaining areas of Langley City, I don't expect significant changes in the number of housing units that can be built in those areas.

While these changes may cause concern for some folks, I don't foresee large-scale redevelopment within our current Suburban and Urban Residential zones. It will happen slowly over time. Also, given the type of redevelopment we are already seeing in these areas with new construction of sizeable single-detached homes, this four-unit change may result in buildings with less "massing" than we see today when new single-detached houses are built.

Another significant change is that the provincial government will prohibit municipalities like Langley City from holding public hearings for rezoning. Public hearings will be required when a community's Official Community Plan is updated or for rezoning inconsistent with an Official Community Plan.

The provincial government will also require that we update our Official Community Plans every five years, including strengthing requirements around the number of housing units and types of housing units a community needs to meet population growth projections. Given that Langley City recently updated our Official Community Plan, including being realistic about how we can accommodate our growing population, I don't expect much change due to this provincial legislation.

Local governments are created by provincial legislation. We must follow whatever the province tells us to do. While I look forward to seeing the regulations on how local governments like Langley City should implement these changes, on the whole, I think allowing missing middle housing by default is a good thing.

Of course, the provincial and federal governments will still need to provide financial incentives to build this type of housing while ensuring it remains affordable for the average person in BC.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Langley RCMP Detachment: Strategic Plan Results Update

A joint RCMP/Bylaw Bike Patrol in Langely City

On Monday, Langley City Council received its quarterly update about the Langley RCMP Detachment by Superintendent Adrian Marsden.

While we received the typical crime statistics, more importantly, we received information on how the detachment is tracking with the goals in its strategic plan. I will dive into more detail based on the four pillars of the strategic plan.

One of the main goals of the detachment is to collaborate with partners to support people experiencing homelessness and mental health challenges, referring them to other community partners so that folks can get help.

A significant accomplishment this quarter was setting up the Langley Inter-Agency Frontline Table. This table brings all community partners together, such as the RCMP, provincial ministries and agencies, bylaws, health care, mental health services, the school district, and non-profit service organizations, to identify people with a high need for support and work to get these folks the help they need. This table helps shift away from the fragmented and siloed program-specific approach we typically see to centring the person who needs support, no matter who needs to provide the support. So far, this new "LIFT" table has addressed 19 cases, otherwise known as situations.

Another strategic goal is to ensure the detachment has the staffing to meet the needs of our growing community by reducing workplace vacancies and having a detachment workforce more representative of the diversity of people in Langley.

Superintendent Marsden noted that the detachment had reestablished the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group this last quarter. He also noted building a support team to help support detachment members in crisis.

One of the high visibility strategic goals is maintaining the sense of safety in Langley neighbourhoods and public spaces, which should hopefully correspond with a reduction in "disorder" calls into the detachment.

Superintendent Marsden highlighted the foot and bike patrol in Langley City. Between the beginning of July and the end of September, they performed 196 of these patrols in our community.

In the last quarter, the department also partnered with ICBC on driver safety awareness events, attended several community events, hosted "Coffee with a Cop," and was at our recent Langley City Neighbourhood meetings.

The final strategic goal is building relationships with other public safety partners in Langley or neighbouring municipalities.

The Langely detachment is participating in the Repeat Violent Offending Intervention Initiative, which includes the BC Prosecution Service and BC Correction. The goal is to work together to reduce repeat violent offences in Langley. So far, six people are part of this program in Langley.

The Langley Detachment is also part of the Casino Response Collaborative as Langley Cascades Casino recently became a group member this quarter. The goal is to reduce criminal threats at casinos.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Langley City Council Calls for Improvements to HandyDART Service

A few weeks ago, I posted that Langley City Council received a presentation from the Save Our HandyDART Coalition. HandyDART service is for folks who cannot use conventional public transit service without assistance. The Coalition outlined some challenges HandyDART users face, such as scheduling challenges and the growing reliance on taxis replacing HandyDART vehicles and specially trained drivers.

HandyDart Bus

They called on Langley City Council to co-sign an open letter to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, and TransLink, to review and improve HandyDART service.

Council Albrecht presented the following motion at last night’s Council meeting.

THAT Council authorizes the Save Our HandyDART Coalition to add Langley City Council as a signatory to the Coalition’s open letter to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Rob Fleming, which directs the TransLink Board to:
1. Fulfill TransLink’s original pledge to limit the percentage of taxi trips to 7% or lower of total HandyDART trips.
2. Provide accessible, affordable and increased HandyDART transportation as part of the government’s commitment to implement the Accessible BC Act.
3. Develop and conduct an unbiased Public Sector Comparator (PSC), with the full participation of HandyDART riders and workers, to compare the costs and benefits of insourcing to continued outsourcing as TransLink promised in 2016.
4. Develop and implement a plan to bring HandyDART in-house as a subsidiary of TransLink, including providing provincial and federal funds for permanent facilities for an expanded and electric HandyDART fleet.

Councillor Solyom noted some of the challenges his mother is facing getting signed up for HandyDART service. All members of Council wholeheartedly supported this motion.

Monday, October 30, 2023

November 11th Remembrance Day Ceremony in Langley City

People at Remembrance Day Ceronomy at Douglas Park

Langley City invites people to attend Douglas Park on November 11th to remember those who died in service to our country.

Gathering around the cenotaph symbolizes the traditional military night vigil, an act of honouring those who have died in service.

Mark your calendar for this year's ceremony as follows.

Date: November 11th, 2023
Time: Starts at 10:50 am sharp, so please arrive early
Location: Douglas Park Cenotaph - 20550 Douglas Crescent

Douglas Crescent and Park Avenue will be closed to motor vehicle traffic around Douglas Park from 6:30 am until 1:00 pm.

For those who cannot attend in person, the City produced an online ceremony, which you can watch at any time.

Many people and organizations lay wreaths as part of the act of honouring and remembrance. You can purchase these wreaths from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #6 in Cloverdale. Further information about purchasing and informing the City that you will be laying a wreath is available on the City's Remembrance Day webpage.

Lest We Forget.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

If the Federal Government Wants Lower Development Charges, It Must Consider Increasing Infrastructure Funding

Pump room inside Langley City’s Water Reservoir

In June, I posted that the Metro Vancouver Regional District was considering increasing Development Cost Charges. The Regional District uses these charges to pay for water, sewer, and park infrastructure related to new housing (population) and commercial building growth.

One of the tenets of local government-funded infrastructure in BC is that "growth should pay for growth." Put another way, property tax and utility fees shouldn't be used to build new infrastructure to accommodate population growth.

Development Cost Charges are a per unit or square footage charges developers pay when constructing new buildings. The provincial government regulates and approves all Development Cost Charges.

Langley City is currently in the process of increasing our Development Cost Charges, as is the Metro Vancouver Regional District. Now, these charges are not a free lunch. If they are set too high, it can drive the cost of housing or commercial buildings up.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District Board is voting on proposed increases to its Development Cost Charges tomorrow, but there is a wrinkle. The Federal Government has decided to pause the Housing Accelerator Fund for all municipalities in Metro Vancouver. Langley City recently applied for $9.67 million from the program to help speed up and increase the number of housing units being built in our community.

The Federal Government wants the region to delay the implementation of the proposed regional Development Cost Charge increases. For specific projects, such as below marking housing built by non-profits, the Regional District will already reduce or eliminate Development Cost Charges. Still, the Feds want the region to consider expanding the reduction or elimination of Development Cost Charges to for-profit, market-priced rental construction (among other things.)

Unlike the federal or provincial governments, local governments in BC, such as the Metro Vancouver Regional District or Langley City, must have balanced budgets. For each exemption or reduction in Development Cost Charges, local governments must raise that "lost" revenue with property tax or utility fees that all property owners and renters pay for.

So if we exempted for-profit, market-priced rentals from Development Cost Charges, the City and region would have to transfer the cost of building new infrastructure to accommodate growth from developers to everyone.

There is another path forward. The federal government could come forward with additional, significant funding to pay for water, sewer, parks, and transportation infrastructure required due to population growth. They could even link it to reductions in Development Cost Charges.

I know that local governments, the province, and the federal government want to support building more housing faster, but we also need to pay for the infrastructure required to service these new housing units. While Development Cost Charges are far from perfect, they are essential for local governments, including Langley City, to pay for building basic infrastructure.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Filling the $600 Million Per Year TransLink Funding Gap

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, TransLink's fare revenue crashed, but thanks to the financial support of both the federal and provincial governments, the agency could maintain transit service. While ridership is growing rapidly now, there are still some significant budget challenges.

TransLink's revenue is lower today than what we predicted it would be before the pandemic. It didn't account for the rising cost of almost everything due to inflation and geopolitical instability. The adoption of electric vehicles is also growing faster than expected. All this has led to a structural funding challenge for TransLink.

TransLink fare revenue is lower because people take transit differently. There are fewer 9-5 commuters and more weekend riders, which negatively impact revenue. Also, the Mayors' Council and the province froze fares and capped fare increases since the pandemic to maintain affordability. These actions and the change in ridership mix have led to a significant loss in revenue.

Fuel tax is also declining faster than expected as more people are buying more EVs faster than was predicted.

On the positive side, property tax revenue has been stable.

As revenue has declined, the cost to provide the same level of service has increased, which is a double whammy. We've all suffered from inflation, and TransLink is no different. Besides inflation, traffic congestion also impacts expenses. To maintain the same level of bus service, TransLink must operate more buses due to congestion. Congestion costs more than the planned expansion of bus service!

The following scary graph from today's Mayors' Council meeting agenda shows the funding challenges that TransLink faces today.

Graph of 2026-2033 increase in structural funding gap by drivers. Select the graph to enlarge.

On the positive front, the province has provided funding to fill the gap up to 2026, and they should be commended for this. This funding will give us time to get TransLink's financial house in order.

The Mayors' Council (on which I serve) and TransLink Board are working hard to solve the funding challenges with TransLink to ensure that we can continue to grow our transit system and maintain our regional road network.

Even today, TransLink continues to work with municipalities to speed up bus service to save money. These cost savings are why we have bus lanes in Langley City.

Together with the feds and the province, we will be able to balance TransLink's budget and provide a stable path forward. The alternative is massive cuts to transit service, which will increase congestion and increase the cost of living for people in Metro Vancouver.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Final Langley City Neighbourhood Meeting Tonight at Simonds Elementary

People at Langley City Neighourhood Meeting at Douglas Rec Centre

Over the last month, Langley City has hosted a series of meetings throughout our community. These meetings are open to anyone (no matter which neighbourhood you live in) and provide an informal opportunity for people to talk to City Council and staff about anything and everything about our community.

I know attending a Council meeting can be intimidating for many folks, so these neighbourhood meetings are set up like a trade show or science fair, with booths from the different City departments. You can visit each booth, ask questions and provide feedback at your own pace. Members of Langley City Council will also be wandering around, so you can come up to any member of Council to ask questions and provide feedback.

Like other members of Council, I have really valued the opportunity to talk with and hear from folks in our community at these meetings. I've heard some good feedback from people about housing, homelessness, and parks. I've heard clearly that folks enjoy our parks and public spaces and continue to want them to be top-notch. Around homelessness and mental health, I walked people over to our new Social Planning Services department booth so they could learn about the work that the City is doing to move forward on these challenges in a good way.

There are also Recreation, Finance, Bylaws, Engineering, Parks, Development Services, the Fire-Rescue Service, and the RCMP booths. There will be coffee and light snacks, a children's play area, and limited seating for folks.

The final neighbourhood meeting is today.

Time: 6 pm to 8 pm (You can arrive and leave at any time)
Date: October 24th, 2023
Location: Simonds Elementary School, 20190 48 Avenue

Monday, October 23, 2023

October 16 Council Notes: Property Tax Exemptions and Intelligent Community Forum

In BC, places of worship (such as temples, mosques, gurudwaras, and churches) are exempt from paying property tax. This exemption is called a statutory property tax exemption, and it only applies to the land underneath the actual place of worship building but doesn't include parking lots and landscaping. BC law also allows local governments to provide permissive tax exemptions for any land used by places of worship and non-profits, plus land that local governments use. This exemption is called a permissive property tax exemption.

Now, these exemptions are not free lunches. In BC, property taxes are calculated by dividing the money a local government needs by the total property value within that local government's boundary. So each exempt property, all other things being equal, raises the property tax on all other property owners.

Like many municipalities, Langley City maintains permissive tax exemptions for all land used by places of worship. Langley City also provides permissive tax exemptions for other non-profits.

Given the overall tax implications, the number of properties that receive these exemptions is rarely expanded.

Every year, Langley City Council must approve these permissive tax exemptions. This year, Council gave first, second, and third reading to a bylaw to approve the following permissive exemptions.

Organization and Address Amount
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vancouver - 20676 Fraser Hwy $75,000.00
Vineyard Christian Fellowship - 5708 Glover Rd $47,668.00
Langley Seniors Resource Society - 20605 51B Ave $42,532.00
Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary - 20560 Fraser Hwy $39,533.00
Langley Lawn Bowling - 20471 54 Ave $34,548.00
Langley Care Society - 5451 204 St $29,696.00
Town & Field Church - 20719 48 Ave $27,336.00
Langley Community Music School - 4899 207 St $27,104.00
Vancouver Global Mission Church - 5673 200 St $25,974.00
Anglican Parish of St Andrew's - 20955 Old Yale Rd $23,773.00
Church of the Nazarene Canada Pacific District - 19991 49 Ave $21,371.00
Bridge Community Church - 5521 Brydon Cres $17,153.00
Encompass Support Services Society - 20616 Eastleigh Cres $14,642.00
Langley Food Bank - 20308 Logan Ave $12,181.00
Langley Community Services Society - 5339 207 St $10,274.00
Inclusion Langley Society 20689 - Fraser Hwy $9,384.00
Langley Stepping Stones - 20101 Michaud Cres $9,326.00
New Apostolic Church Canada - 19999 53 Ave $6,373.00
Langley Hospice Society - 20660 48 Ave $4,849.00
Inclusion Langley Society - 4570 209A St $2,888.00
Inclusion Langley Society - 4830 196 St $2,876.00
Council of the Salvation Army - 5787 Langley Bypass $2,647.00
Inclusion Langley Society - 19977 45A Ave $2,495.00
Inclusion Langley Society - 312-5650 201A St $1,109.00
Inclusion Langley Society - 210-20239 Michaud Cres $1,101.00
Inclusion Langley Society - 208-20239 Michaud Cres $1,093.00
Inclusion Langley Society - 210-5650 201A St $785.00
Total $493,711.00

In Langley City, these exemptions will result in a 1.27% property tax increase in 2023 for other property owners.

On a different note, at the same October 16th meeting, Council also approved authorizing the City's CAO Francis Cheung to attend and speak at the Intelligent Community Forum Global Summit in New York City from October 25 through 27 for an estimated cost of $2,500.00.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Council Supports Call to Reduce Speeding on 208th Street Hill

Crosswalk on 208th Street Hill

As I posted a few weeks ago, Langley City Council received a presentation from residents who live along Berry Hill/208th Street Hill. They expressed their ongoing concerns with speeding along that section of road, which has resulted in people crashing their vehicles into fences, hedges, and each other over time.

The residents produced an 86-person petition calling for action.

At last Monday night's Langley City Council meeting, we considered a motion from Councillor Albrecht.

THAT Staff request ICBC for speeding and red-light cameras at the intersections of 48th Avenue and 208th Street and 45A Avenue and 208th Street (pending this signals installation) or other applicable locations to provide tangible and measurable evidence that proves speed is a real and serious concern along this corridor.
THAT Staff review and explore engineering safety improvements, traffic calming, dedicated bus lanes or any other measures that will slow down traffic at Grade Cres and 208 Street specifically, along 208th Street Hill and other locations along 208 Street in general, including the associated costs as part of Langley City's new Transport 2045 plan.

Council unanimously endorsed this motion. I mentioned at the meeting that I already had a preliminary call with ICBC about speeding and red-light intersection cameras. ICBC stated that they do not have the capacity to install additional cameras at this time. I noted to Council that I have a further meeting with ICBC scheduled and will inquire how we can "get to yes" for these intersection cameras in Langley City.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

October 16 Council Notes: Digital Building Permit Pilot, 126-Unit Apartment

At the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Conference in September, the provincial government announced it selected Langley City, among 15 other local governments and Tsleil-Waututh Nation, as pilot governments for its new digital building permit tool.

This new digital build permit tool will be designed to:

  • Ensure the completeness of building permit application packages submitted to governments
  • Apply to the BC Building Code
  • Also include electrical permits
  • Track the progress of applications up to approval

The success of the pilot program will be measured on if:

  • It reduces paper submissions
  • It reduces incomplete or non-code-compliant submissions
  • It reduces developer or builder questions to governments about their building permit packages and progressing
  • Governments throughout BC can use the digital permit tool

Implied is that the digital permit tool will reduce the time it takes to issue building permits.

Besides Langley City staff time, there is no cost to the City for participating in this pilot program, though if the pilot program is successful, there may be ongoing software costs.

Langley City staff told Council we will fully engage in this pilot program.

On the topic of building, Langley City Council gave third reading to a rezoning bylaw which, if given final reading, would enable the construction of a 6-storey, 126-unit apartment at 19948 55A Avenue. You can read more about this in a previous post.

A front view of the proposed building. Select the image to enlarge.

Final reading of a rezoning bylaw is only considered by Council once an applicant has satisfied all the City's requirements, including building plan completeness, off-site engineering (such as water, sewer, storm sewer, sidewalks, bike lanes, lighting, and roadways), and payment of fees and deposits.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Save Our HandyDART Coalition Presents to Langley City Council

Last night, the Save Our HandyDART Coalition (which includes the Langley Human Dignity Coalition) presented to Langley City Council at our public meeting. The Coalition has been raising the visibility about some of the challenges with HandyDART service in our region.

The Coalition released the report "Access for Everyone? Publicly Operated HandyDART In Metro Vancouver" earlier this year. You can read a summary of this report in a previous post.

As I mentioned yesterday, HandyDART service has specially trained drivers and purpose-built vehicles to provide transit service for people with a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability who cannot use conventional public transit without assistance.

Because there is a lack of HandyDART drivers, sometimes trips are replaced with taxi services. In 2022, 17% of trips were via taxi. Taxi drivers do not have the same special training or vehicles as HandyDART drivers.

Last night, the Coalition told a few stories about folks in Langley who use HandyDART but no longer trust the system.

One story was about someone who used HandyDART between home and work in Gloucester Industrial Estates, but their service was replaced with a taxi. The taxi arrived 90 minutes before that person's shift ended and left as the person was still on shift. This person had to find another way home.

They also told the story of a Special Olympian in our community who was asked to go for a coffee by a taxi driver, which isn't professional. They told another story of a Special Olympian who doesn't use HandyDART anymore because of the lack of predictability of the system; they have to rely on others to get around, which limits independence and dignity.

The Coalition noted that they believe there is enough money already to fund HandyDART service. They asked Langley City Council to support an open letter to TransLink asking to:

  • Fulfills TransLink's original pledge to limit the percentage of taxi trips to 7% or lower of total trips
  • Conduct an unbiased Public Sector Comparator to compare costs and benefits of insourcing vs continued outsourcing
  • Develop/implement plan to bring HandyDART in-house as a subsidiary of TransLink

Council Alberect put forward a notice of motion recommending to support the Save Our HandyDART Coalition's requested actions. At the meeting, all members of Council expressed their support, and Council will vote on the motion at our next meeting.

Monday, October 16, 2023

HandyDART 2022 Service Review. More Investment Needed to Reduce Taxi Trips.

TransLink staff included its 2022 HandyDART service performance report for the September Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation meeting.

HandyDART service is an integral part of our transportation system in Metro Vancouver for people with a physical, sensory, or cognitive disability who cannot use conventional public transit without assistance. The service has specially trained drivers and vehicles for these folks.

In 2022, people took 964,800 HandyDART trips. As our population grows and ages, the use of HandyDART will continue to increase.

One of the concerns that I've heard from accessibility advocates is that HandyDART service is essential, and having it delivered with trained drivers and specialized vehicles is critical.

Because there aren't enough trained drivers or specialized vehicles due to various factors, TransLink, via its contractor Transdev, provides some trips via taxi services. In 2022, 17% of trips were via taxi.

Restated, I've heard that the number of taxi trips concerns folks who rely on HandyDART service and their advocates.

The following graph underscores why. It is about driver training, and there is a clear difference between HandyDART drivers and taxi drivers.

Satisfaction Scores for Driver Skills to Assist Passengers with a Disability. Select the graph to enlarge.

Taxi drivers are doing their job, but HandyDART drivers are specially trained with purpose-built vehicles for folks who cannot independently use conventional public transit. These reasons are why there is such a difference in rider experience.

The following chart shows on-time performance. When trips were lower during 2020 and 2021, on-time performance was high. As the number of HandyDART trips increases, on-time performance declines. These number shows the need to invest in HandyDART service continually.

Average Monthly HandyDART Early and On-Time Performance. Select the graph to enlarge.

As a note, on-time means when service is delivered within +/- 15 minutes of its scheduled time.

The final chart shows trips denied or refused for various reasons. In 2022, this was about 0.5% of total trips.

HandyDART Trip Denial and Refusals by Year. Select the graph to enlarge.

For more information, please read the full 2022 HandyDART Service Performance Review.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Only You Can Prevent Cooking Fires - Fire Safety Week in Langley City

Fire Safety Display

It is Fire Prevention Week in Langley City, and this year's focus is on cooking fires.

Cooking is a leading cause of fires in homes, and these important safety tips that can reduce the risk of fire:

  • Stay in the kitchen while frying, boiling, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire, such as oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, or curtains away from your stovetop

If you have a cooking fire:

  • On the stovetop, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan and turning off the burner. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

In my kitchen, we have a small kitchen fire extinguisher near the stove.

Today and tomorrow, Langley City Firefighters will help you bag groceries while providing important fire safety tips.

The locations and times are:

Fraser Crossing Safeway at 20871 Fraser Highway
Thursday, October 12th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

No Frills at 5501 204th Street
Friday, October 13th from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Save-On-Foods at 20151 Fraser Highway
Friday, October 13th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Please visit the National Fire Protection Association Fire Prevention Week website for more safety tips.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Building Bike Lanes, Bus Lanes, and Sidewalks to Reduce Congestion in Langley City

A family on bikes on 53rd Avenue

One of the questions I get asked by folks occasionally is why Langley City has been changing some general travel lanes into, or building new, bike lanes, bus lanes, and sidewalks.

Langley City has been doing this for decades. The first project was the Fraser Highway One-Way, which, up until the 1980s, was a two-way road.

One of the facts about Langley City is that our community has limited space for transportation, so we have to make the most efficient use of the space available. The following chart is from the National Association of City Transportation Officials. It shows that sidewalks, bike lanes, and bus lanes carry an order of magnitude more people per hour than general travel lanes.

From Transit Street Design Guide, Designing to Move People. People per hour by lane type. Select the graphic to enlarge.

Langley City is an extremely walkable, bikeable, and transit-accessible community (even without SkyTrain.) Giving people safe travel options means we can reduce congestion as our community grows. This congestion reduction is only possible when a community has safe and convenient walking and cycling infrastructure and fast, frequent transit service.

The report from the Canadian Automobile Association titled “Breaking the Bottlenecks: Congestion Solutions for Canada” also supports building walking and cycling infrastructure to reduce congestion.

Experience in other countries shows that building segregated bike lanes that makes cycling commuters feel safe and secure can be a relatively low-cost way to reduce urban congestion. Policymakers should also consider better integrating bike sharing with transit systems as a true “last mile” solution.

While it is counterintuitive, the transportation investments that Langley City is making will ensure that our community keeps moving, freeing up road space for commercial traffic and people with no choice but to drive.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

A Family-Friendly Langley City Needs More Townhouses and ‘Plexes

Langley City is holding several neighbourhood meetings this month. At last week’s meeting, I talked with a person who asked me what I thought about all the density in our community. I said that we do need more housing in Langley City. As we aren’t creating more land, we can only accommodate new residents comfortably through redevelopment and increasing housing types and where they can be built. The alternative is overcrowding and continued sky-high rents and mortgage payments.

People at a Langley City Neighbourhood Meeting

Since we’ve been a City, we’ve allowed diverse housing types like apartments and townhouses and commercial/industrial uses north of the Nicomekl River. Most people know that secondary suites are allowed in all neighbourhoods in Langley City, but many forget that townhouses have been built in all neighbourhoods north of Grade Crescent for at least 40 years.

The significant change in our Official Community Plan is that we’ve expanded the areas where townhouses and ‘plexes can be built, added new neighbourhood nodes that permit small-scale retail/services, and introduced the ability to build garden suites in select areas.

The following map highlights the different land uses and where they are allowed in Langley City.

Langley City Land-Use Map. Select the image to enlarge.

I noted that Langley City Council did keep certain areas as detached housing (suburban) with secondary suites only but that the provincial government (through provincial law) is looking to allow between 3-4 units of housing to be built on all lots, which goes above and beyond Langley City’s current Official Community Plan.

While this was a very technical conversation, I had two conversations recently which impacted me at a human level and really drove home the reason we need to allow more housing options in our community, including more townhouses and ‘plexes.

One of my friends lives in an apartment in my neighbourhood and is moving their blended family together. They were looking for a townhouse in Langley City but couldn’t find one, so they had to move to Maple Ridge. While Maple Ridge is a great community, they wanted to stay in Langley City.

Last week, I participated in an RCMP ride-along, and we stopped at Penzer Action Park. I spoke with a young person who had her small one with her. I asked her what she liked and didn’t like about Langley City. She said that while she loved the convenience of our compact community, she wanted a bit more space than her apartment and was looking for a townhouse but couldn’t find anything.

For a community to be vibrant, it must be family-friendly. These two stories highlighted to me why it is so important to increase where people can build townhouses and ‘plexes. I don’t want people with families to move out of our community because they cannot find appropriate housing to meet their needs.