Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Christmas Break

Merry Christmas - Douglas Park

Over the next few weeks, I'll be taking a break from blogging to enjoy the Christmas Holiday Season.

I will be back in the new year with fresh posts.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 18, 2023

December 11 Council Notes: $3.9 million Infrastructure Renewal in Simonds Neighbourhood, Socio-Cultural and Economic Development Advisory Committee, Statutory Public Notices

At Langley City Council’s last meeting of the year, Council approved tendering a contract for $3.9 million to All Roads Construction Ltd and ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd. This contract includes renewing water pipes, storm sewers, and the roads in the Simonds neighbourhood, as shown in the following map.

A map of the scope of the Simonds neighbourhood infrastructure renewal project. Select the map to enlarge.

The City expects the project to start in January and wrap up in the spring. The City will require that access to the neighbourhood is maintained and uninterrupted at all times.

Council is also creating a new Socio-Cultural and Economic Development Advisory Committee. The mandate of the committee is to:

  • Promote Langley City as a Regional Hub.
  • Foster prosperity, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Support creating a new Socio-Cultural Economic Framework, a new Social-Economic Implementation Plan, and updating the Attract and Retain Business Plan.
  • Develop policies that will support the KPU 2050 Master Plan.
  • Develop strategies and partnerships with KPU, businesses, entrepreneurs and others to realize the vision for the Glover Road Innovation District.
  • Promote new investment opportunities focused on transit-oriented development.
  • Develop strategies and partnerships to secure capital funding for an arts and cultural facility.
  • Advocate to the provincial and federal governments to support Langley City’s Social-Economic Implementation Plan.

For more information, please read the full terms of reference for the committee.

Currently, the City must publish statutory notices in the local newspaper as per provincial law. When everyone received the newspaper, newspapers were published frequently, and all communities had a local newspaper, this law made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, local newspapers are declining, and some communities have lost their local paper with minimal notice. A few years ago, the provincial government updated the law to allow communities to provide statutory notices in places other than a newspaper as long as they are “available to a diverse audience or readership, and easily found.”

During the Alternative Approval Process for the $15 million loan to support SkyTrain and Downtown Renewal, we heard from the community that the newspaper was not the best way to provide statutory notice, as the paper is not delivered to every household in Langley City. As such, Council approved asking staff to fulfill our statutory public notice requirements via the City’s website and on a notice board that the City will install at Timms Community Centre. Staff will now create a bylaw for Council that, if approved, will authorize this change. Even with this proposed change, the City will still be advertising information in the newspaper.

Council also gave final reading to bylaws that enabled adopting the Inter-municipal Business Licence and updated 2024 water, sewer, and garbage collection rates.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Jingle Bells Singalong in Downtown Langley City

It's time to jingle all the way in this very special Downtown Langley City singalong.

So turn up the sound and get your Christmas spirit on. I want to wish you and yours a happy holiday season!

Thank you to the Downtown Langley Merchants who made this video possible.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Langley City Council Adopts New Direction: Five-Year Rolling Strategic Plan Approved

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Langley City Council paused our in-progress strategic plan to focus on getting through and recovering from the pandemic. Langley City Council put together a one-year priorities plan after the municipal election to help address urgent needs in our community and lay the groundwork for a new strategic plan.

Langley City Council and staff worked hard to put together a new five-year strategic plan which will address what we’ve heard from the community and what we need to do to ensure the reliability of the services and facilities Langley City provides. Langley City Council consists of independents, which is a strength as it brings diverse perspectives to the discussion-making process. I’m proud to see those perspectives reflected in the new strategic plan.

One of the small, but important changes Council made to our mission statement is to build a “vibrant, safe and inclusive community together with current and future generations.” There are two things that I want to call out.

The first is that as a Council, we want to rebuild trust in government and support our citizens in being meaningful, engaged partners in the governance of Langley City. The second is that Council will endeavour to make decisions that consider not only today, but also seven generations out.

The new strategic plan will be a rolling five-year plan, meaning that Council will update it annually. Langley City Council is committed to transparency and accountability, so we will report on what’s working and what needs adjustment in the plan. The annual review ensures that our strategic plan remains relevant to the community's needs.

Core focus areas of the new strategic plan. Select image to enlarge.

The core focus areas of the new strategic plan are:

  • Cultivate an Inclusive Community
  • Provide Reliable Municipal Infrastructure
  • Support a Vibrant Economy
  • Integrate Holistic Approach to Community Safety
  • Build Climate Resiliency
  • Strengthen Communication and Public Engagement
  • Achieve Organizational Excellence

I’m excited about the future of Langley City and the direction of our strategic plan. You can read the entire plan on Langley City’s website.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

King Taps Restaurant Flagship v2 Design Approved

In October of last year, Langley City Council approved issuing a development permit to allow the construction of a King Taps restaurant on the northwest corner of 200th Street and the Langley Bypass.

Building rendering from the parking lot. Select the image to enlarge.

Over the summer, the owners of King Taps demolished the former restaurant at that site, but they did not start construction on the new building as they were updating their design for their flagship location.

Langley City Council reviewed the new design at last night's meeting. Langley City's Advisory Design Panel provided thirteen recommendations on the design of the updated building. The applicant incorporated most recommendations, including enhancing accessibility and access throughout the site, improving bike parking safety, and updating the landscaping and design.

King Taps landscaping plan. Select the plan to enlarge.

This current design iteration significantly departs from the previous design.

Building view from 200th Street. Select the image to enlarge.

Building view from the Langley Bypass. Select the image to enlarge.

This building is in an auto-oriented strip mall area today, but in the next decade, it will be a mixed-use, transit-oriented area with more people walking, cycling, and taking transit to the mall area. This building tries to address this transition by engaging with the public realm along 200th Street. Their updated design includes a walk-up and pickup window on the 200th Street frontage.

Council approved issuing the development permit, and I look forward to construction starting soon.

Monday, December 11, 2023

This One Small Change Will Allow More Three Bedroom Apartments

One of the things that Langley City Council has heard from the community is the desire to have more three-bedroom units in apartment buildings for growing families.

Building three-bedroom apartments is much easier in many parts of the world, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, and closer to home in New York and Seattle. Why is it easier? Because of the building code.

At the turn of the 20th Century, before fire sprinklers and a general understanding of how to design buildings for fire safety, planners decided that people should have at least two means of exiting a building due to a fire. That made sense back then, but it doesn't make much sense today with modern safety systems and fire designs.

Those two exit designs mean that apartments need double-loaded corridors, which is the typical design you see today.

Typical Double-Loaded Corridor Design. Select the image to enlarge.

The preceding example is from a project along 207th Street in Langley City and shows the double-loaded corridor, which lends itself to one- and two-bedroom units. Three-bedroom units are possible but become premium units because of the space required in double-loaded corridor designs.

With single-exit designs, building three-bedroom apartment units becomes much more cost-effective. It also allows more flexibility in building small-scale apartments. For example, you could build horizontal townhouses (which would be more accessible) or walk-up apartments instead of the typical three-storey vertical townhouse design.

Example of Single-Stair Design. Select the image to enlarge. Source: Manual of Illegal Floor Plans

Fire safety is critical; for a technical review of the safety of single-exit designs, please read the site "The Second Egress: Building a Code Change." For a friendly read, check out "The Curse of the Double Egress."

You might have missed it in the flurry of provincial housing announcements, but the provincial government recently said it would, "along with fire-safety professionals and national partners, is examining opportunities in codes, including requirements for egress stairs" If the province updates the building code to enable more single-exit designs, it would allow the construction of more affordable, smaller-scale three-bedroom units.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

"On the Trail - 50 Years of Engaging with Nature" Local History Book Launch

Cover of the book,"On the Trail - 50 Years of Engaging with Nature."

This summer, I enjoyed reading an advanced copy of the book "On the Trail - 50 Years of Engaging with Nature." Members of the Langley Field Naturalists wrote this book. It tells the stories of field naturalists in our community and the contribution they made not only to Langley but also throughout North America.

Locally, the Redwoods Conservation Area, Forslund/Watson Reserve, and Brydon Lagoon are some of the direct results of efforts by field naturalists to protect and enhance natural areas and native species. The story about how these places came to be is wonderfully told in this book.

A handful of books tell the settler stories of Langley, Langley City and the Township. This new book is a fine addition to this body of work. I am sure that historians will refer to this book when they research our community in the coming decades.

Langley City Council was proud to provide a grant to help make this book possible, and its official launch is happening this weekend.

The details are as follows:
Saturday, December 9th at 2 pm
Langley City Library
20339 Douglas Crescent

I hope to see you there.

You can check out a copy of this book through the Fraser Valley Regional Library system.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Making it easier for trades to do business in the Fraser Valley

Back in the day, if you owned a business as a tradesperson or another construction-related business, you'd have to take out a business license in every municipality you worked in. In Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, there are 27 municipalities. Taking out a business license in each municipality would put an undue burden on these mobile businesses.

In 2012, 11 municipalities got together to create the intermunicipal business license program. This program allows mobile trades and construction businesses to take out one business license in their "home" municipality and have it be effective in all participating municipalities.

Over the years, the program expanded, including out to Merritt. Given the geographic distance between Merrit and the Fraser Valley, Merrit decided to bow out of the program. As a result, other participating municipalities need to update our inter-municipal business license bylaw.

On Monday, Langley City Council gave first, second, and third reading to update our bylaw to remove Merrit and update some housekeeping matters in the bylaw.

The list of participating municipalities includes Langley City, Abbotsford, the Township of Langley, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge, Delta, Mission, Hope, Pitt Meadows, Kent, Surrey, and Harrison Hot Springs.

Please visit Langley City's website for more information on the Intermunicipal Business Licence program.

At the same meeting, Council gave final reading to update our Municipal Ticket Information System Bylaw. You can read more about this in a previous post.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Langley City Water, Sewer, Garbage Collection Rate Changes

December is the start of budget session in Langley City, and one of the first things that Council considers is updates to the water, sewer, and garbage collection user fees.

Langley City is a member of the Metro Vancouver Regional District, and as such, we purchase water and sewer services from the Regional District.

All properties in Langley City are on water meters. If you live in a strata, your water and sewer may be billed directly to your strata corporation, though it is still metered.

Metro Vancouver is increasing its water and sewer rates, so Langley City is passing on the cost. As a result, Langley City is proposing to increase the water rate by 17¢/cubic metre to $1.79. The flat rate of $75 per year is not changing. The average cost for a detached homeowner will increase by $56.10 to $665.70 per year. The average cost for a strata homeowner will increase by $32.30 to $415.10 per year.

The sewer rate is tied to water utilization for a property. Langley City proposes increasing the sewer rate by 26¢/cubic metre to $1.82. The flat rate of $75 per year is not changing. The average cost for a detached homeowner will increase by $68.64 to $555.48 per year. The average cost for a strata homeowner will increase by $39.52 to $351.64 per year.

The City collects solid waste from detached houses and small stratas. Metro Vancouver fees, green waste processing fees and an inflationary increase in the City's collection contract mean that the City proposes increasing the flat fee by $28 to $271 in 2024.

Council gave first, second, and third reading last night to a suite of bylaws which will set the 2024 utility rates at its last night's meeting.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Higher Density Means Lower Property Tax for Infrastructure

Aerial of Downtown Langley City

When it comes to municipal infrastructure such as roads, water pipes, sewer pipes, and stormwater systems, it has been well-accepted that building and maintaining this infrastructure for compact urban areas is more cost-effective than suburban ones. While there is a lot of evidence that proves this out for regions throughout the world, this has just been done for Metro Vancouver. The Metro Vancouver Regional District recently released a report called "Costs of Providing Infrastructure and Services to Different Residential Densities."

The report's authors crunched the numbers and produced the following table, which shows representative housing forms within our region and their associated municipal infrastructure costs.

Scenario Unit Yield (Per Acre) Servicing Costs Cost Per Unit Persons per Household Cost Per Capita
House (Low) 16 $640,000 $40,000 3.10 $12,903
House (High) 24 $880,000 $36,667 3.10 $11,828
Townhouse (Low) 40 $680,000 $17,000 2.75 $6,182
Townhouse (High) 60 $700,000 $11,667 2.75 $4,242
Apartment (Low) 100 $800,000 $8,000 1.85 $4,324
Apartment (High) 200 $900,000 $4,500 1.85 $2,432

Langley City's single-detached housing density would be "high," townhouse density would be "high," and apartment density would be "high" in the table to give an idea of the densities this study's authors are comparing which isn't super high density.

You may think that the servicing costs don't matter as builders pay for it initially via developer fees and charges. One of the challenges is that the City, and therefore all property taxpayers, are on the hook for ongoing costs and replacement costs when the infrastructure needs to be renewed. Regarding infrastructure costs, lower density means high property tax in the long run, as it is spread among fewer people.

Please read the full report in the November 3, 2023, Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee agenda.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Langley Christmas Wish Breakfast Was a Success, but More Support Is Needed

Yesterday was the third Christmas Wish Breakfast at Newlands Golf & Country Club, supporting the Langley Christmas Bureau. The Bureau provides a food hamper, toys, and books for families in Langley City and Township who otherwise could not afford it. The goal of the Christmas Bureau is to raise $250,000 this year to support Langley families this holiday season as the number of families accessing the Bureau is growing.

The Christmas Wish Breakfast started at 6:30 am yesterday with the RCMP and Langley City Fire Rescue Service piping in Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Newlands Golf & Country Club management and staff had a hot breakfast buffet ready. It was amazing to see all the support of businesses both locally and throughout Metro Vancouver to make the event possible. Even the paper plates and cultural (which came from Langley City based manufacture) were donated.

Mr. Claus, who looks very similar to former Langley City Councillor Rudy Storteboom

People enjoying the breakfast buffet.

Beyond the tasty breakfast, people could enjoy live music and entertainment.

Live entertainment from the Langley Ukulele Ensemble

The Langley Christmas Bureau is an official committee of Langley City. Langley City staff and volunteers put in countless hours to make sure everything runs smoothly from the breakfast, to finding sponsors, to helping family signup, and to distributing the food, toys, and books. It is genuinely a whole community effort.

Some of Langley City Council in front of the Holiday RMC Readymix Truck, one of the sponsors of the breakfast

The generosity of our community was on full display yesterday, with people dropping off a mountain of toys and providing donations.

One of the many toy Christmas Trees full of donated gifts

If you want to support the Langley Christmas Bureau, there is still time. Visit the Bureau's website today and learn how you can help make Christmas a little bit merrier for every family in Langley.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Yes, We Need the Lawn Watering Police in Metro Vancouver

With winter weather, summer water usage is likely the furthest thing from people's minds. Still, the Metro Vancouver Regional District recently evaluated this summer's water utilization and the effectiveness of water restrictions to plan for next summer and the future.

The following graph shows that overall water availability in Metro Vancouver reservoirs was within normal ranges this past summer. However, water utilization was 5.4% higher in 2023 compared to 2022, so the Regional District activated Stage 2 water restriction in August.

Total Source Water Storage for Metro Vancouver Over Summer Months. Select the chart to enlarge.

While Stage 2 water restrictions did help lower water utilization, the data showed that people were still watering their lawns, which is banned in Stage 2 water restrictions. The Regional District noted that it will need to enhance education, and municipalities will need to increase enforcement to help further limit water utilization when restrictions are in place. It might sound silly, but lawn watering is a significant threat to the availability of drinking water.

The Regional District is looking at increasing the water reservoir capacity, but this is a costly process that takes many years to build out. Even with reservoir expansion, population growth and climate change mean that water conversation will continue to be critical during summer, and our conservation efforts will need to increase.

I'm from the Okanagan, and many people replaced classic grass lawns with native and drought-tolerant landscaping to help converse water. This change in landscaping will likely be something that people will need to consider in our region over the coming decades to help ensure the availability of drinking water.

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.