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.