Friday, April 28, 2023

Surrey Policing and Impacting on Policing in Langley City

As you may know, the provincial government announced the steps and conditions for Surrey to continue its transition to the Surrey Police Service and also the conditions to transition back to the Surrey RCMP.

One of the significant concerns expressed by Surrey Council was the cost of traditioning to the Surrey Police Service. The provincial government has come to the table with the financial support to complete the transition. The province will not provide financial support to transition back to the RCMP.

I would usually not comment on policing in Surrey, but if Surrey did transition back to RCMP, it would destabilize policing in Metro Vancouver.

We have vacant positions for RCMP members throughout Metro Vancouver, including in Langley. Due to the pandemic and retirements, the RCMP cannot meet the immediate demand for RCMP members by training recruits alone. The transition to the Surrey Police Service has allowed RCMP members to be reassigned to detachments like Langley to fill vacancies.

If Surrey went back to the RCMP, it would draw away members from detachments throughout BC, and it would also draw recruits creating a prolonged RCMP staff shortage, destabilizing policing.

Continuing the transition to the Surrey Police Service is in the best interest of Langley City businesses and residents.

Taking from David to Give to Goliath: Regional Casino Revenue Sharing Proposal Would Hurt Small Municipalities

Cascade Casino in the Background

Currently, municipalities in BC that host a casino receive 10% of the net gaming revenue from casinos within their municipality boundary.

In 1999, the provincial government sought to expand gaming in BC. They commissioned a “White Paper on Gaming.” One of the recommendations was that the provincial government take control of casinos, including where casinos could be located. Another recommendation was that the province allows municipalities to reject casinos from being built, but for municipalities that did allow casinos to be built or had casinos, the province would share 10% of the net gaming revenue.

Casinos aren’t a free lunch. There are social impacts, including problem gambling, economic, and policing impacts borne by the host municipality.

Langley City has a casino today because the Township of Langley rejected hosting a casino in their municipality. This rejection is why a casino opened in Langley City in 2005. In Langley City, the previous Council negotiated for a convention centre to be part of the casino complex as a condition of accepting the casino in our community.

Rejecting casinos isn’t from yesteryear. Surrey rejected a casino in 2013, which is why a casino recently opened in Delta by the George Massey Tunnel.

Municipalities that do not host a casino occasionally ask the province to update the 10% policy to enable revenue from casinos to be shared by all municipalities, not just municipalities that host casinos.

The Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) Conference is next week. There is a proposal to “urge the Province to make the necessary legislative changes to ensure equitable distribution of casino revenue within regional districts.” This motion will be voted on by elected representatives from municipalities and regional districts in the Lower Mainland.

The following table shows the breakdown of municipalities in Metro Vancouver. It includes population estimates from 2022, what revenue municipalities that hosted casinos received in fiscal 2021/22, what municipalities would receive if an “equal distribution” of casino revenue occurred in Metro Vancouver in fiscal 2021/22, and what gains or losses in revenue municipalities would see under this “equal distribution” proposal.

Municipality Population Casino Revenue, Actual Casino Revenue, If Shared Revenue Change, If Shared
   Anmore 2,485 $35,879.61 $35,879.61
   Belcarra 716 $10,337.95 $10,337.95
   Bowen Island 4,058 $58,591.32 $58,591.32
   Burnaby 270,264 $8,726,789.37 $3,902,199.54 -$4,824,589.83
   Coquitlam 159,285 $5,450,081.61 $2,299,832.22 -$3,150,249.39
   Delta 113,347 $1,636,557.63 $1,636,557.63
   Langley City 30,084 $6,030,084.96 $434,367.03 -$5,595,717.93
   Langley Township 142,043 $2,050,884.06 $2,050,884.06
   Lions Bay 1,325 $19,130.98 $19,130.98
   Maple Ridge 96,378 $1,391,551.18 $1,391,551.18
   New Westminster 85,708 $4,850,774.73 $1,237,492.67 -$3,613,282.06
   North Vancouver, City 61,973 $894,795.50 $894,795.50
   North Vancouver, District 92,390 $1,333,970.55 $1,333,970.55
   Pitt Meadows 20,399 $294,530.42 $294,530.42
   Port Coquitlam 65,246 $942,052.63 $942,052.63
   Port Moody 36,786 $531,133.68 $531,133.68
   Richmond 222,954 $8,351,509.02 $3,219,115.37 -$5,132,393.65
   Surrey 633,234 $2,472,080.67 $9,142,932.18 $6,670,851.51
   Vancouver 706,012 $5,163,216.38 $10,193,735.39 $5,030,519.01
   West Vancouver 45,406 $655,593.32 $655,593.32
   White Rock 21,807 $314,859.79 $314,859.79
   Unincorporated Areas 30,820 $444,993.75 $444,993.75

Not surprisingly, Vancouver, Langley Township, and Surrey would get the most significant revenue boost, even if it is a bit ironic given that Surrey and the Township rejected casinos in the past. Municipalities that would lose the most revenue include Langley City, Richmond, and Burnaby.

This loss would significantly impact the budgets for smaller municipalities like Langley City and New Westminster. Langley City has around a $65 million budget, and the “equal distribution” proposal would impact our revenue by around 10%.

This money transfer to larger municipalities like Vancouver with its $2 billion budget, Surrey with its $1.2 billion budget, or the Township of Langley with its $520 million budget would not significantly impact their bottom line. For example, it would impact the Township of Langley’s revenue by less than 1%.

While having a regional casino revenue sharing sounds good on paper, it is not a justice or equitable approach.

If this motion was approved at the LMLGA conference and the Union of BC Municipalities conference later this year, and if the province did move forward with this, it would be a breach of a social contract the province made more than 20 years ago with municipalities that host casinos. This agreement and contract encouraged municipalities to accept casinos in their community. It would hurt smaller municipalities and would minimal benefit large municipalities.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Join the 61st Annual Langley Walk on May 7th

From the 54th Annual Langley Walk, which started at Timms Community Centre.

One of the great Langley traditions is the Langley Walk. Pete Swensson, who was Langley Township’s first Recreation Director, started the walk in 1963. Back then, it was 35 kilometres running from Aldergrove Park to Fort Langley ending in City Park.

Today, the walk has a 5km and 10km course and rotates around Langley City and Township.

This year’s event starts at Douglas Park on Sunday, May 7th. The event starts at 12:30 pm with a warm-up, and the walk officially starts at 1 pm.

All people will receive a commemorative crest for participating in the walk. Some people have all 60 current crests, and collecting the crest has become a tradition!

61st Langley Walk Crest

There are also awards for the oldest walker and the school, organization, and family with the most walkers.

Please check out Langley City’s website for more information, including registering or volunteering.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Langley City joins other municipalities in calling on the feds not to bargain with municipal dollars without including us at the table for future RCMP agreements

In 2021, the federal government reached its first collective agreement with RCMP members and reservists.

The agreement included a 24% increase in salary for Constables (from $86,110 in 2016 to $106,576 in 2022), applied retroactively.

I’m entirely in support of collective bargaining, but one of the challenges with this bargaining process was that the federal government negotiated with the National Police Federation while they left local governments in the dark. This bargaining in the dark is problematic because local governments help fund over 70% of RCMP members’ salaries.

Langley City set aside over $3.3 million to cover the new collective agreement, but because the new salaries and retroactive pay were larger than we expected, we have to raise an additional $1.5 million in property tax as part of the 2022 Langley City budget to cover the new collective agreement.

Over 90% of Langley City’s 2022 budget expenditure increase was due to RCMP policing costs.

This RCMP Collective Agreement runs from 2017-23, so the federal government will again start the bargaining process with the National Police Federation.

Langley City is joining other local governments in Canada, calling for the federal government to ensure we are “actively involved in any future processes regarding contract policing.”

As a result, Langley City Council passed the following motion on April 17th.

WHEREAS, The Government of Canada has made the decision in Budget 2023 to make municipalities responsible for all retroactive costs stemming from the latest RCMP collective bargaining agreement; and
WHEREAS, These extraordinary one-time costs, which in some jurisdictions amount to millions of dollars, will cause significant hardship for communities and residents across the country, and were negotiated without meaningful consultation or a seat at the table for the municipalities responsible for paying the bill; and
WHEREAS, Municipal governments are already paying a growing share of policing costs, but unlike other orders of government, cannot run deficits to spread out the impact of these extraordinary one-time sums, and have limited revenue tools; and
WHEREAS, Local governments will now be forced to make difficult decisions that will impact residents, such as cutting essential services, reducing policing levels, raising property taxes significantly, and/or cancelling work on local infrastructure, at a time when Canadians’ concerns about community safety and the cost of living are already rising; and
WHEREAS, Going forward, it is critical that municipalities be proactively engaged in any forthcoming processes related to contract policing to prevent this occurring again;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Langley joins the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in calling on the federal government to commit to ensuring that local governments are meaningfully consulted, fully informed, and at the table on issues related to policing costs given the municipal role in keeping our communities safe;
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the City of Langley conveys this support in writing to local Members of Parliament.

Monday, April 24, 2023

April 17 Council Notes: New Sewer and Storm Sewers Regulations, Crime Prevention Committee Work Plan, Other Matters

Last week, I posted about some items addressed at the Monday, April 17th, Langley City Council meeting. Today, I will post about the remaining items.

Langley City staff are working on updating many of our bylaws that are related to redevelopment. The latest bylaw to be updated is our Sanitary Sewer and Storm Sewer Regulation Bylaw, with associated updates to our fees, charges, and fines.

The update modernizes our sewer and storm sewer regulations. For people redeveloping, it adds clarity to connecting and disconnecting services which should help speed up the construction process. The updates will also reduce the likelihood of a renovation requiring an upgrade to sewer and storm sewer services. The bylaw includes specific requirements to reduce fat, oil, and grease from entering our sewer system. It also makes it illegal to discharge carwash and pool water into the storm sewer, onto a street, a neighbouring property, or directly into a watercourse. Storm sewers drain directly into watercourses.

Council gave first, second, and third readings to these suites of updates.

With Langley City’s 2023 budget already approved Council gave first, second, and third readings to the 2023 Tax Rate Bylaw. The Tax Rate Bylaw sets the mill rate for each property class to collect $37,724,095 in property tax revenue to balance the 2023 budget. The bylaw also enables the collection of property tax for the regional district.

Council approved our Crime Prevention Committee’s 2023 Annual Work Plan. This volunteer committee’s plan for this year includes:

  • Holding the Door-to-Door Know Your Neighbour Campaign
  • Promoting Block Walk
  • Working to Reduce Mail Theft
  • Creating stronger relationships between residents & businesses and the RCMP
  • Increasing Cyber Security Awareness
  • Creating a public art piece around personal and neighbourhood safety
  • Increasing Bike Security

Langley City shares a seat on the E-Comm Board. E-Comm provides 911 call-taking and dispatch services in Langley City and most parts of BC. We share board seats with Langley Township, Surrey, and White Rock. Between 2023-27, the seats will go to Langley Township and Surrey. As per policy, Langley City approved those municipalities’ choices for representatives.

Council gave final reading to our Council Code of Conduct Bylaw and repealed the old “CO-13 – Ethical Standards of Conduct for Elected Officials” policy.

Council also gave final reading to the Inter-municipal Transportation Network Services Business Licence Bylaw.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Langley City Council Moves to Make Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages in Parks Pilot, Permanent

For the past two years, Langley City has piloted allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages in McBurney Plaza, select areas of Douglas Park, and most of the picnic shelters at City Park. This pilot ran during the summer month on Fridays and Saturdays.

Picnic shelters at City Park. Select image to enlarge.

The pilot program allowed people to enjoy beverages of their choice while having a meal, as many people enjoy picnics in our parks.

The City evaluated the feedback about and results of the pilot program. Based on that evaluation, Langley City Council gave first, second, and third readings to amend our Parks and Public Facilities Regulations Bylaw to allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages permanently during the summer and early fall.

Consumption of alcoholic beverages will be permitted every Thursday to Saturday from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm and every Sunday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm from June 1st to October 31st at the following locations:

North Section of McBurney Plaza
Designated Area in Douglas Park
Picnic Shelters at City Park

Map where alcoholic beverages may be consumed at City Park. Select the map to enlarge.

Map where alcoholic beverages may be consumed at Douglas Park. Select the map to enlarge.

For people with a problematic relationship with alcohol, they will still be able to use the majority of Douglas Park and also the picnic shelter near the east parking lot at City Park.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

New Langley City Flood Construction Levels. Redevelopment Will Reduce Flood Impacts.

As we all saw in the fall of 2021, sections of Langley City flooded due to an “atmospheric river” rain event. With climate change, these types of events will increase in frequency.

Langley City is on floodplains for the Nicomekl River, Murray Creek, and Logan Creek. In 2010, Langley City Council adopted a Floodplain Elevation Bylaw to protect new homes, commercial businesses and industrial businesses from a 1-in-200-year flooding event.

Based on new climate change models and the fall 2021 “atmospheric river” flooding event, Langley City staff have updated the data on the impacts of a 1-in-200-year flooding event.

The following maps show the new flood construction levels. This level is above which new development projects must build habitable space. Habitable space includes almost any part of a building where a human could be.

Map of new flood construction levels in the western section of Nicomekl River. Select the map to enlarge.

Map of new flood construction levels in southern areas along 208th Street. Select the map to enlarge.

Map of new flood construction levels in northern areas along 208th Street. Select the map to enlarge.

Map of new flood construction levels along the Langley Bypass, Glover Road, and Duncan Way areas. Select the map to enlarge.

Map of new flood construction levels along the Langley Bypass. Select the map to enlarge.

Langley City Council gave three readings to update our Floodplain Elevation Bylaw on Monday to update the flood construction levels. The updated bylaw also requires that a building’s mechanical, electrical, heating/cooling and safety systems are about the flood construction level unless these systems are floodproofed.

The bylaw allows underground parking, surface parking, and bike storage to be built under the flood construction level for an area.

Langley City’s Official Community Plan encourages the redevelopment of areas within the floodplain, especially around 208th Street north of 51B Avenue, by allowing ‘plexes, rowhomes, and townhomes to replace detaching housing that is below the flood construction level. The sooner redevelopment occurs in these areas, the more protection people will have from flooding, significantly reducing impacts on their life and property.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

April 28th: Day of Mourning for Working Killed on the Job

April 28th is the Day of Mourning to remember workers who have lost their lives on the job. Tragically, workers’ injuries and death still occur on the job in Canada. These injuries and death are tragic because they are preventable.

Wendy Cook from the New Westminster & District Labour Council presented to Langley City Council about the Day of Mourning. She noted that more than 1,000 Canadian workers are killed on the job every year, thousands more are permanently disabled, and hundreds of thousands are injured.

She also noted that thousands of others die from cancer, lung disease, and other ailments caused by exposure to toxic substances at their workplaces.

She stated that bullying and harassment on the job degrade people’s mental health.

Ms. Cook asked us to renew our commitment to creating safer workplaces and job sites because one person with poor mental health, or who is injured, disabled or killed because of their job, is one person to many.

At last night’s Council meeting, we held a moment of silence to remember workers who have lost their lives on the job and their families and to recommit to advocating for and creating safer workplaces.

In recognition of the Day of Mourning, the flags at Langley City Hall/Timms Community Centre will be lowered with a small ceremony at 11 am on the 28th.

National Day of Mourning Flag at Delta School Board Administration Building. Source: Delta School District.

For more information about the Day of Mourning and other ceremonies throughout the region, please visit Day of Mourning BC.

Monday, April 17, 2023

From ALR to Industrial: Langley Township’s Gloucester, Surrey’s South Campbell Heights, and the Growing Urban Containment Boundary

The central tenet of the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy is to preserve rural, agricultural, conservation, and recreational lands. All municipalities in our region agree to this central tenet. Our region implements this central tenet through the Urban Containment Boundary.

Metro Vancouver Urban Containment Boundary. Select the map to enlarge.

Having an Urban Containment Boundary protects local food production, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and energy use from transportation, help sequesters carbon by maintaining greenspace, and encourages the co-location of housing, jobs, and services in walkable, bikeable, and transit-accessible neighbourhoods. For local governments, it also reduces the cost of providing services, meaning lower property taxes over the long term. The Urban Containment Boundary prevents sprawl.

Because of the importance of the Urban Containment Boundary, if a local government wants to adjust it, it requires the support of a two-thirds weighted vote of the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board (made up of representatives from Tsawwassen First Nation and all municipalities.) There are some exceptions.

Our region has an industrial land shortage. Industrial lands are important for our region. Point in case, while industrial land is only four percent of the region’s land base, over 25 percent of jobs are on industrial lands.

Industrial lands are also regionally designated and protected. Changing from industrial land use to another land use requires a 50%+1 weighted vote of the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board. This vote is a barrier to converting industrial land to other uses, though the barrier is lower than changing the Urban Containment Boundary.

Interestingly, there is a shortcut for growing the Urban Containment Boundary in the current version of our Regional Growth Strategy and the previous version. You can convert land next to the Urban Containment Boundary to industrial land with only a 50%+1 weighted vote of the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board, not a two-thirds weighted vote.

This shortcut is playing out near Gloucester Industrial Park in the Township of Langley, where the Township has an application with the Metro Vancouver Board to change 14.59 hectares of regionally designated agricultural land to industrial land.

Location of Conwest Group lands near Gloucester Industrial Park pending Metro Vancouver Board vote to convert to industrial land. Select the map to enlarge. Source: Township of Langley

Most agricultural land in Metro Vancouver is within the Agricultural Land Reserve, which the provincial Agricultural Land Commission controls. The proposed conversion of this 14.59 hectares of land started with Agricultural Land Commission exclusion requests from 2006, 2010, and 2020. While the Commission denied the 2006 and 2010 requests, the 2020 request for exclusion was successful. This exclusion is what allowed the current regional request.

As noted by regional district staff, this land will help grow the industrial land base constrained in this region. The land is near a major highway and railway corridor.

On the other hand, Gloucester Industrial Park is only accessible by private automobiles and is surrounded by the Agricultural Land Reserve. Expansion of that area will increase vehicle kilometres travelled and greenhouse gas emissions. It will also put pressure to exclude further land from the Agricultural Land Reserve. Converting rural lands to industrial use can encourage sprawl.

In the recent past, this played out with South Campbell Heights in Surrey, with former agricultural land converted to employment lands and growing the Urban Containment Boundary.

Expanding the Urban Containment Boundary at two locations will not degrade regional growth policies in Metro Vancouver when viewed in isolation. Still, the cumulative effects of changing the Urban Growth Boundary over time degrade regional growth policies and objectives.

In this post, I’m not speaking for or against the changes proposed near Gloucester Industrial Park or the change that occurred in South Campbell Heights in Surrey. I want to raise awareness that, as a region, there is now a trend of converting former agricultural and rural lands for employment and industrial uses. If this is the new normal for our region, we may want to consider how we integrate these new employment and industrial areas into the broader regional planning context of Metro Vancouver on how they can still support addressing climate change and creating compact centres connected by high-quality transit.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Report Crime Online to the RCMP. Help make Langley Safer

Langley RCMP

Whenever there is an emergency, harm to a person, or possible harm to a person, always call 911. To report a crime where an emergency response is not required, you can call the Langley RCMP non-emergency phone number at 604-532-3200 or report the crime online.

You can use the online crime reporting tool to report:

  • Something that was damaged or vandalized
  • Something that was stolen
  • Something that was lost
  • Someone who was driving poorly

It is important to report crime as it helps the police determine how to deploy their resources and target crime hotspots.

Even if it seems minor, please consider using the online crime reporting tool. Using the online tool takes less than 15 minutes, and reporting crime helps make our community safer.

Use Online Crime Reporting

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Taxes & Charges on a Representative House: Langley City Second Lowest in Region

Welcome to Langley City Sign

When most people look at their property tax and utility notice, they only see the bottom line amount owed and attribute that full cost to their municipality. While Langley City collects all property taxes in our community, about 40% of that tax is set and remitted to the School Board, Regional District, TransLink, BC Assessment Authority, and Municipality Finance Authority.

So, when you look at the complete picture of property tax (both City controlled and other), plus water and sewer utility fees, how does Langley City compare to other municipalities in Metro Vancouver?

The provincial government tracks this as part of their “Taxes & Charges on a Representative House - Schedule 704.

The following interactive chart shows that Langley City has the second lowest taxes and changes in Metro Vancouver for 2022. You can hover over the graph to get the representative charges. Langley City is in yellow.

The following table shows the representative house values.

Municipalities House Value
Anmore $2,368,756
Belcarra $1,663,056
Bowen Island $1,538,776
Burnaby $1,810,127
Coquitlam $1,531,162
Delta $1,349,938
Langley City $1,211,033
Langley Township $1,353,926
Lions Bay $2,166,403
Maple Ridge $1,160,955
New Westminster $1,424,241
City of North Vancouver $1,875,885
District of North Vancouver $2,068,420
Pitt Meadows $1,034,819
Port Coquitlam $1,254,912
Port Moody $1,680,906
Richmond $1,846,416
Surrey $1,539,883
Vancouver $2,490,709
West Vancouver $3,567,565
White Rock $1,841,241

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Metro Vancouver Climate 2050: Energy Roadmap

Last week, I posted about Metro Vancouver Nature & Ecosystems Roadmap. This Roadmap is part of a series of roadmaps for the Metro Vancouver Regional District Climate 2050 strategic framework. The framework is the Regional District’s response to climate change adaptation and greenhouse gas reduction. Today, I will highlight the key strategies and initiatives from the Energy Roadmap.

If the region can implement the measures in this Roadmap, we will reduce energy usage by 25% from 2010 levels and increase clean energy usage to 84% of all energy used in Metro Vancouver by 2050.

Potential Impact of the Strategies and Actions Described in the Climate 2050 Roadmaps. Select the graph to enlarge. Source: Metro Vancouver.
  • Plan for the Transition to Clean, Renewable, and Resilient Energy
    • Align British Columbia’s Energy Objectives with Strong Climate Action
    • Strong Climate Mandate for Energy Utilities
    • Revise Utility Regulation to Align with Strong Climate Action
    • Long-term Planning Scenarios for the Transition to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
    • Regional Climate Action in Energy Utility Regulatory Processes
    • Implement Tracking, Verification, and Reporting Requirements for Renewable Natural Gas Supply
    • Reduce Energy Poverty (Racialized, recent immigrant, and Indigenous households have just access to affordable clean energy)
    • Transition Regional District’s Energy Use to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy
  • Accelerate Electrification
    • Set Electrification Rates to Encourage Switching from Natural Gas for Heating
    • Time-of-Use Rates, Demand Response Programs, and Electric Vehicle Peak Reduction Programs
    • Modernizing the Electrical Grid
    • Resolve Regional Grid Constraints
    • Establish High-Performance Heating and Cooling Equipment Import and Sale Standards
    • Minimize Air, Land, and Water Impacts on New Renewable Energy Projects
  • Increase Sustainable Production of Low Carbon Biofuels and Hydrogen
    • More Stringent Low Carbon Fuel Standards
    • Implement Renewable Gas Content Requirements
    • Prioritize Sustainability in Biofuel Feedstock
    • Create a Regional Hydrogen Hub to Produce Low Carbon Hydrogen
    • Create Regional Sources of Liquid Biofuels
    • Develop Local Sources of Sustainable Aviation Fuel
    • Streamline Emission Requirements for Anaerobic Digestion Facilities
    • Expand Anaerobic Digestion of Agricultural Waste
    • Phase Down Use of Thermal Coal and Petroleum Coke
    • Make the Regional District a Renewable Energy Provide
    • Innovative Research on Optimizing Energy Recovery from Waste Streams
  • Limit Expansion of Fossil Fuel Production
    • Account for the Full Climate Impact of Fossil Fuel Production and Export Projects
    • Eliminate Subsidies and Public Financing for Fossil Fuels
    • Just Transition Plan for Workers and Communities Engaged in the Fossil Fuel Industry
  • Protect Existing Energy Systems from Current and Future Climate Impacts
    • Comprehensive Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment
    • Prepare for Regional Disruption due to Extreme Weather Events
    • Protect and Increase the Resilience of Existing Regional Energy Generation & Distribution Infrastructure
    • Ensure Critical Regional Infrastructure has Backup Power
  • Build New Energy Systems that are Climate Resilient
    • Design for Climate-Resilient Energy Infrastructure
    • Pilot Innovative Renewable Energy & Storage Systems to Improve Resiliency
    • Pilot test the viability and utility of bi-directional vehicle chargers with zero-emission vehicles

While the Roadmap will require the collaboration of First Nations governments, the federal government, regional districts, and local governments to be successful, it won’t get off the ground without strong support from the provincial government.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Why we need a diversity of housing options in Langley City

As I posted about yesterday, the provincial government will require local governments to allow 3 or 4 units of housing in all residential zoning, with legislation coming in the fall with further details.

In our new Official Community Plan, Langley City allows townhouses, rowhouses, and ‘plexes along 200th Street and 208th Street and up to three housing units in some of our traditionally single-detached housing areas. More housing options allow more people to have the possibility of home ownership. Most people cannot afford to own a single-detached home these days.

Even before Langley City’s new Official Community Plan, we’ve had townhouses and ‘plexes in traditionally single-detached housing areas for decades, including along 203rd Street, 50th Avenue, and on the west side of City Park.

I had a resident send me an email asking why we allow different housing forms in traditionally single-detached areas, expressing concern about greenspace. I wanted to share a slightly modified version of my reply below.

The starting points for various housing types in Langley City are:

  • $380,000 for an Apartment
  • $500,000 for a two-bedroom Townhome/Rowhome
  • $730,000 for a three-bedroom Townhome/Rowhome
  • $1.4 million for Single Detached Home

A single-family home is about double the price of a townhome or rowhome and is unaffordable. According to Stats Canada Census information, the median household income in Langley City is $77,000.

This stat means that most households in Langley City could afford an apartment and, if they built up equity in that apartment, afford a townhouse/rowhouse. Buying an apartment first, and owning it for around 15 years, was the only way I could afford my townhouse. I could never afford a single detached home even though I had a well-paying job.

A single-detached house is unobtainable for the majority of British Columbians.

With the cost of housing in mind, that Langley City’s population is growing to support our economy, with Skytrain coming, and factoring in that we are only 10 square kilometres, our only option is to densify to provide affordable housing options for the majority of people.

The type of infill housing within traditional single-detached neighbourhoods envisioned in Langley City’s Official Community Plan is a primary residence with a secondary suite and a coach home.

Here are examples of townhouses and ‘plexes in traditional single-detached housing neighbourhoods in Langley City today.

Townhouses on the right and single-detached homes on the left along 201A Street near Sendall Gardens.

‘plexes on the left and single-detached homes on the right along 207A Street near City Park.

We must also preserve greenspace and support our region’s objective to protect farmland and expand conservation lands. These protections and expansion are something I strongly believe in. I do not support building sprawl on farmland and rural areas.

In Langley City, we are working to replace invasive plants in our natural areas, such as the floodplain, with native plants.

Langley City is looking to acquire property to expand our green space, especially in the northwest part of our community. We are also creating an urban forest management plan to grow the urban forest canopy. We will include a policy to protect trees to ensure that trees are not needlessly clear-cut as part of the redevelopment process. We will also invest heavily in street trees to grow our tree canopy.

We must have great natural spaces and well-maintained parks with increased population density. Langley City Council continues investing in our parks, trails, and natural areas. We are also creating a new Parks and Recreation plan so that people can stay active and connected.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

With the province allowing up to four units of housing per lot in all neighbourhoods, the devil will be in the details

The provincial government recently signalled that they would require municipalities to allow people to build three or four housing units on lots that municipalities zone for single-detached housing. I support this concept. We must create more housing options for people; single-detached zoned areas are the largest areas of most municipalities, so it opens up more areas of a community for a diversity of housing options.

What the province proposes is similar to Langley City’s new Urban Residental land use, which allows a primary single-detached residence with one attached secondary suite and one detached garden suite/coach home.

Langley City’s Land-Use Map. Select the map to enlarge.

The province’s proposed changes mean that instead of this land use only applying to the areas in solid brighter yellow. It would also apply to the lighter yellow areas of the map, effectively eliminating the Suburban land use in Langley City.

The province had not provided details on how local government should implement allowing up to four units of housing in all zone. Like all new policies, the devil is in the details.

There are a few things I’d like to see the province address to make this proposed land change a win-win without causing negative financial impacts to local governments, neighbourhood character or, ironically, affordable housing.

Local governments can apply Development Permits to regulate a building’s form and character, except for single-detached housing buildings.

Form and character include, as per Langely City’s Advisory Design Panel’s Terms of Reference:

  • Overall design quality, appeal and character
  • Relationship and design of interfaces of buildings and open spaces to each other and neighbouring properties, the public realm (sidewalks and streets, public parks and plazas and natural open spaces) in terms of building location, massing and shadowing of open spaces, and existing and future land uses
  • Building and site design, in terms of architectural features, fa├žade treatments, landscaping, usable open and amenity spaces, parking layout, pedestrian, vehicular and fire-fighting access, loading and solid waste collection
  • Building and open space materials and finishes, in terms of form, quality, quantity, durability, colours and safety
  • Livability and human needs, in terms of building entrances, circulation, quality of views from habitable rooms, user and public safety, privacy, noise and storage
  • Accessibility considerations
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Local governments can control a single-detach residential building’s height, lot coverage, water, sewer, drainage, and parking.

For all building types, including single-detaching housing, local governments can use Development Permits to regulate energy conservation, environmental protection, hazardous conditions, water conservation, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

The provincial government should make it explicit that with four housing units on a lot, Development Permits to regulate form and character would apply.

Development puts pressure on existing local government services and infrastructure. One way to address this is through Development Cost Charges, which allows “growth to pay for growth.” Unfortunately, these Charges in BC are too prescriptive, so local governments must negotiate additional amenities through the rezoning process.

If rezoning is no longer required to build up to four units of housing in all residential zones in BC, the province must also expand what amenities are eligible to be paid for by Development Cost Charges.

Finally, local governments can use zoning to ensure affordable housing units are built via a housing agreements. Again, the provincial government should explicitly state that local governments can apply housing agreements to secure affordable housing no matter the zone and without requiring rezoning.

With a few clarifications and changes, introducing gentle into traditional single-detached neighbourhoods will be a win-win.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

April 3 Council Notes: Conflict of Interest Bylaw, Committee Workplans/Recommendation, and Other Matters

Last night’s Langley City Council meeting started with a presentation from Lilianne Fuller, a Langley Field Naturalist member. She thanked Council for our ongoing support of their brochure program, which includes pictorial brochures about butterflies and birds in the Nicomekl Floodplain. She also noted that they will host the BC Nature AGM Conference from May 4-7.

Under BC legislation which came into effect in June 2022, local governments must consider adopting a new code of conduct or reviewing an existing code of conduct within six months of a local election. Langley City Council directed staff to develop a code of conduct in March 2022.

Last night, Council gave first, second and third reading to a Council Code of Conduct bylaw. The Code of Conduct outlines how Council members should act, including:

  • Interactions with other members of Council, City staff, volunteers, the public and the media
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Improper Influence
  • The use of City resources, including branding during an election campaign or for a fundraising event
  • Gifts
  • Social Media

The Code of Conduct bylaw also includes two dispute resolution processes if a Council member believes another Council member has contravened the Code of Conduit bylaw. The first is an informal process, which is the preferred path. The second is a formal process which includes submitting a formal complaint, proceeding with an investigation, and, if an investigation determines that a Council member breached the Code of Conduit bylaw, applying a remedy.

Remedies range from reviewing the Code of Conduit bylaw with a member of Council to limiting a City Councillor from accessing certain City facilities.

Langley City, along with 25 other municipalities in the South Coast, participate in an inter-municipal business licencing system for ride-hailing companies. This system allows a ride-hailing company to get one business license for all participating municipalities. The District of Hope, the District of Kent, and the City of Mission are joining this system. As a result, Langley City Council gave first, second, and third readings to update our Inter-municipal Transportation Network Services Business Licence Bylaw.

Council approved the Arts, Recreation, Culture and Heritage Committee’s 2023 Work Plan. The work plan includes:

  • Supporting a new mural at Rotary Park
  • Installing signage about former railways through Langley City
  • Starting an Artist in the Park program
  • Hosting an open-mic night
  • Supporting cultural displays as part of the “Voyaguers & Cie Heritage Picnic” at Michaud House and “Global Festival.”

Council also approved a request from the Crime Prevention Committee to ask the City’s Development Service Department “to investigate the feasibility of requiring target-hardening security measures as a standard requirement, as suggested by Canada Post, to deter mail theft for new multi-family development applications.” The investigation would come back to City Council for further action if required.

Council authorized the Langley City Fire Rescue Service to apply for a $30,000 grant from the UBCM’s Community Emergency Preparedness Fund. If the Fire Rescue Service successfully receives the grant, the Service will use the funds to help upgrade our Emergency Operation Centre. This upgrade is required because the Township of Langley recently terminated the joint Langley Emergency Program with the City.

Council approved the Director of Corporate Services to attend the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Annual International Conference in Portland, Oregon, from May 21 to 24 and the Deputy Director of Development Services & Economic Development to attend the Canadian Institute of Planners National Conference in Halifax from June 27 to 30.

Council approved Councillor Paul Albrecht’s request to seek re-election to First Vice-President on the Executive Board of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) for the 2023-2024 term.

Council approved updating some wording on previously adopted motions correcting minor inconsistencies. The changes were for a motion to apply to the UBCM Poverty Reduction Planning and Action Stream 2 Funding and a motion submitted to Lower Mainland Local Government Association around Municipalities Asset Management Funding. Council also approved sending the Municipalities Asset Management Funding motion to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for consideration at their September Board Meeting.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Metro Vancouver Climate 2050: Nature & Ecosystems Roadmap

Around five years ago, the Metro Vancouver Regional District adopted Climate 2050. This strategic framework is the Regional District’s response to climate change adaptation and greenhouse gas reduction. The framework calls for the creation of roadmaps which outline the specific climate actions we must take in Metro Vancouver. There are ten topics for which the Regional District will create roadmaps. They are Nature & Ecosystems, Infrastructure, Human Health & Well-Being, Buildings, Transportation, Industry, Energy, Land-Use & Growth Management, Agriculture, and Waste.

So far, the Regional District has completed roadmaps for Buildings and Transporation. The District’s Climate Action Committee is reviewing the roadmaps for Energy, and Nature & Ecosystems. Today, I’ll dig a bit deeper into Nature and Ecosystems.

Green Infrastructure Network from “Strategy 2” of the proposed Nature & Ecosystems roadmap. Select the image to enlarge.

This roadmap has five key strategies, which include the following initiatives.

  • Strategy 1: Protect, Restore, and Enhance the Region’s Ecosystems
    • Protect an Additional 10% of the Region for Nature
    • Protect, Restore, and Enhance Natural Areas at the Regional Scale
    • Protect, Restore, and Enhance Nature at the Local Scale
    • Incorporate Climate Change Planning into Protected Area Management
    • Prioritize the Conservation of Ecosystem Health and Biodiversity in BC Forest Management
    • Support Ecosystem Protection, Enhancement, and Restoration
    • Reverse the Loss of the Region’s Ecosystems through Restoration
    • Manage invasive species
  • Strategy 2: Connect Green Infrastructure
    • Develop a Regional Green Infrastructure Network
    • Green Urban Areas
    • Green the Regional Greenways Network
    • Minimize Ecosystem Fragmentation
    • Develop Data and Resources to Support Ecosystem Connectivity
  • Strategy 3: Integrate Natural Assets into Conventional Asset Management and Decision-Making Processes
    • Incorporate Natural Assets into Asset Management and Financial Planning
    • Integrate Ecosystems and their Services into the Design of Major Infrastructure
    • Consider Ecosystems and their Services in Major Development Decisions
    • Support Natural Asset Management at the Local Level
    • Explore Opportunities to Overcome Barriers to natural asset management
  • Strategy 4: Support a Resilient, Robust, and Healthy Urban Forest
    • Achieve 40% Tree Canopy Cover Within the Region’s Urban Areas
    • Provide Data and Resources to Support Urban Forest Management
    • Improve Local Regulations and Management Practices
    • Convene Partners on Urban Forestry Issues
    • Consider Equity and Human Health in Urban Forestry Planning
  • Strategy 5: Advance Nature-based Solutions to Climate Change
    • Explore Innovative Funding and Incentive Programs
    • Plan for Climate Change Impacts on Ecosystems
    • Include Nature-Based Solutions in Climate Action Plans
    • Support the Implementation of Nature-based Solutions
    • Manage Forests in the Context of a Changing Climate
    • Advance Nature-Based Solutions to Address Flood Hazards
    • Develop our Understanding of Coastal Ecosystems and Blue Carbon Potential
    • Partner with Others to Address Climate Change Issues in Coastal and Marine Ecosystems

While the Regional District has developed this roadmap, for it to be successful, it will require the collaboration of First Nations governments, the province, the federal government, regional districts, and local governments.