Monday, July 24, 2023

Going Above and Beyond - Langley City's proposed $15 million loan to support SkyTrain and Downtown Renewal

Last week, Langley City completed the Alternative Approval Process for a $15 million loan which the City is proposing to use to help purchase property to support SkyTrain and fund the renewal of the Fraser Highway One Way.

In 2021, Langley City completed an Alternative Approval Process and approved using a $7.5 million loan to purchase property to support SkyTrain.

These loans are components of a plan that started in 2020, which at the time contemplated Langley City borrowing $10 million per year over five years for the following:

  • $31 million in strategic land acquisitions to support preparing for SkyTrain, renewing downtown, and expanding parks
  • $3 million in parks and trails improvements
  • $6 million in Downtown Langley infrastructure upgrades
  • $10 million in City and recreation facilities expansions and enhancement

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted this original plan, so this year's and the 2021 loans are a subset of this original vision.

Previously, Langley City took out a $7 million loan for our water reservoir using the Alternative Approval Process. The City built the reservoir in 1999.

Municipalities have a cap on loan interest payments in BC. They can equal up to 25% of a municipality's stable revenue and no more. Stable revenue includes property tax and other recurring fees.

If a municipality wants to take out a loan and if that loan's interest payments plus a municipality's current loan internet payments would equal between 5% to 25% of the municipality's stable revenue, a municipality can go through either an Assent Voting or Alternate Approval Process per BC law to get voter approval.

In Langley City's case, our loan interest payments, even at $22 million, are under 5% of our stable revenue, meaning that Langley City did not need to complete either an Assent Voting or Alternate Approval process for this year's or the 2021 loan, but did so anyway as a matter of transparency and accountability.

You may have noted that I didn't talk about the loan during the Alternate Approval Process over the last month. The reason is that the provincial government strongly discourages Councils from appearing to promote the reasons for taking out a loan during the Alternate Approval Process period, as it could be seen as biased. Of course, the City must communicate that an Alternate Approval Process is occurring. In Langley City's case, we put in four newspaper ads (above the two required by the province), plus had information on the front page of Langley City's website and at City Hall.

We also saw democracy in action in our community throughout this process. People were writing letters to the editor and canvasing neighbourhoods collecting signatures for folks opposed to the City taking out a loan.

One of the comments I heard from some community members was that the City was sneaky about the loan. I had some conservations with folks and stated that the City and Council were very transparency about the loan, pointing to the fact that we included an insert in every tax notice (mailed to every property taxpayer) which, among other things, stated, "the City intends to borrow $15 million to purchase strategic property, fund infrastructure upgrades, and SkyTrain-related improvements to maximize this once-in-a-generation opportunity for residents and businesses."

Even though it wasn't required, Langley City did complete the Alternate Approval Process, and the results will allow the City to continue taking out the loan. Council will consider approving the $15 loan authorization at tonight's meeting.


Anonymous said...

I dont think the City has been sneaky about this at all, there has been transparency about this process. However, are there any details about if these will remain City owned properties (and for what purpose) or if these will be sold off as an assembly for development? Thank you

Nathan Pachal said...

This land would remain City-owned, supporting road realignment or other civic uses.