Thursday, February 22, 2024

Langley City's Crime Prevention Committee Calls for Secure Bike Parking

If you've been to Downtown Langley, you will see that we have various designs of bike racks, from whimsical to practical, on the street and around Timms Community Centre. There are also chain-linked bike parking spots in the Timms Community Centre parkade.

Langley City's volunteer-led Crime Prevention Committee noted the current bike rack and parking may not be the most secure and called on Langley City Council to look into installing modern, secure bike parking around Timms Community Centre. Council supported this recommendation and asked City staff to prepare a report with proposed locations, style, and cost of installing secure bike parking. With the massive adoption of e-bikes, which can be expensive, there must be a safe place to park the bikes in our downtown area.

Example of multi-point lock bike racks. Select the image to enlarge.

Example of bike storage lockups. Select the image to enlarge.

In Kelowna, they have excellent bike parking throughout their downtown. I'd like to see more of it throughout Langley City, including in strip malls.

Many people attend Community Day and other events downtown, but again, there is limited opportunity to securely park bikes due to the sheer volume of people attending. The Crime Prevention Committee asks if, for Earth Day or Community Day, the City could consider assigning space around Douglas Park to support a volunteer Bike Valet, as you see at many events throughout Metro Vancouver. Langley City Council supported this request.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

February 12 Council Notes: Contaminated Soil Increases Project Cost 21%, Accepting Gifts, Invasive Mussels

In May 2023, Langley City Council approved awarding a $4,156,715.00 tender to McDonald & Ross Construction Ltd. The tender was for renewing the:

  • Watermain, sanitary sewer, and storm sewer along 56 Avenue from 200 Street to 203 Street
  • Traffic signal at the 56 Avenue & 201A Street intersection
  • Watermain on Park Avenue

At last Monday's Langley City Council meeting, City staff asked Council to increase the tender by $898,500.

The construction company must remove and dispose of soil as part of the project. At the start of the project last year, the company found that the soil's chloride (salt) levels exceeded new provincial regulations, making the soil "contaminated material," significantly increasing disposal costs. The new disposal cost is $638,569.32. City staff also recommend an additional $240,664.22 contingency. These changes increase the overall tender from $4.2 million to $5.1 million, or a 21% increase.

Council had a robust discussion with City staff on this increase, including asking that City staff implement further checks and balances to ensure we don't experience similar project cost increases due to contaminated soils in the future.

Council approved increasing the tender.

At the same meeting, Council approved updating our "City Amenity Gift Program Policy" - CO62. Occasionally, the City will receive benches, outdoor clocks, or other gifts from groups. These gifts can have unintended maintenance costs or shorter lifespans than standard City outdoor furnishings. The updated policy ensures that any gift donated to the City is from the City's standard outdoor furnishings and equipment catalogue.

Council also approved a rezoning bylaw and issued a development permit to allow a 6-storey, 126-unit apartment at 19948 55A Avenue. You can read more about this project in a previous post.

Finally, Council asked City staff to draft a letter in response to a request from the Okanagan Basin Water Board to call on the province to continue to take action to prevent invasive mussels from being introduced into BC watersheds.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Feedback on Langley City's Proposed 2024 Budget

Last Monday, February 12th, Langley City Council dedicated a portion of its regular meeting to officially hearing feedback and reviewing written submissions on the proposed 2024 budget.

Four people gave Council the benefit of their opinions at the meeting. Two speakers were a husband and wife, who were not supportive of the budget and questioned why we were investing so much into police, including $11 million to acquire land for a possible new detachment for Langley City, given the uncertainty of the Township of Langley led de-integration process. I noted that the only thing certain in Metro Vancouver is the increased cost of land and that by purchasing the land now, we would save taxpayers a lot of money in the future. If we don't need the land, the City could sell it at a profit and reinvest that money into the community.

Another individual again questioned why we are considering investing more in police and fire protection and wanted fewer firefighters and police officers.

The final person who provided verbal feedback supported the budget.

Council also received six pieces of written correspondence. Three letter writers were in support of the proposed 2024 budget. One letter writer opposed increasing the number of firefighters. Another letter writer opposed increasing the number of firefighters and police officers; they wanted the City to invest the money instead into flood mitigation.

The Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce asked us to lower property taxes this year by charging more for recreation programming, deferring investment in police, fire, and bylaw services, and finding additional cost savings within the budget.

At the Council meeting, City staff noted that management looks for cost savings yearly and that no department is automatically granted funding just because they had it last year.

A common request from a few community members every year during the budget process is to defer spending until a future year or use capital works savings to fund ongoing operations to lower taxes in the current year. The problem with using capital works savings is that we are underinvesting in our infrastructure today, so any extra money we save throughout the year helps us reduce our deferred infrastructure maintenance. We are increasing the money we put aside every year to try and get out of this deferred maintenance. The more money we put aside, the faster we can get our infrastructure into a good state of repair.

The cost of labour, goods, and services will always increase unless we enter a recession; this means Langley City's property tax will have to increase yearly. If the proposed increase were 5% in year one, 5% in year two, and 5% in year three, and if Langley City Council lowered property tax in year one to 3%, year two would see a 7% increase.

Please visit Langley City's website for more information about the proposed 2024 budget.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

How do we build housing for the next million British Columbians?

This week, 400 local government representatives from throughout BC gather in Downtown Vancouver for the Union of BC Municipalities' "Housing Summit 2024: Local Vision. Local Action." I was one of six panellists during a Tuesday morning session titled "Housing the Next Million British Columbians."

We talked about some of the current challenges regarding the lack of affordable housing for working British Columbians, how the new changes to provincial laws on minimum densities (among other things) will impact local government and housing supply, and what we need to do as a country and province to get more affordable housing built, including the infrastructure to support population growth such as water, sewer, transit, schools, and health care services.

Folks from UBCM interviewed me after the panel, which I have shared below.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Langley City Calls on Province to Invest in Our Overcrowded Schools

Arial view of the fast-growing Brydon area of the Nicomekl Neighbourhood of Langley City. Select the image to enlarge.

Langley City Council urges the Ministry of Education and Child Care to invest money in expanding schools in Langley City to address overcrowding.

“School enrolment within the City has increased beyond current capacity over the past few years with the adoption of our new Official Community Plan that supports the Provincial objective of increasing housing stock for families with children,” said Mayor Nathan Pachal. “The arrival of the SkyTrain by 2028 and new provincial housing requirements will increase housing units and students by 241 percent and 142 percent, respectively, within the next decade.”

The number of Development Permit applications received for multifamily residential projects over the last four years represents an annual addition of 5% to 8% to the existing housing stock. The Nicomekl neighbourhood is experiencing the highest growth in the City, absorbing approximately 80% of the City’s net population growth. “There will be another 165 students in the Nicomekl neighbourhood over the next four years and we desperately need to expand Nicomekl Elementary School immediately to address this increase,” said Mayor Pachal. “The eight-classroom expansion scheduled for 2025/26 is a positive step but we can’t wait that long. We need a firm commitment from the Provincial Government to approve the estimated cost of $28,030,139 for the expansion project and/or advance funding for this project to 2024/25.”

Langley City’s developments continue to contribute toward School Site Acquisition Charges with no significant benefits to students in Langley City. “We need the investment to remain in Langley City for Langley City schools. We can’t ignore that other neighbourhoods in our community will be facing growth as well. This will necessitate further capital investment in other City schools to ensure they can reasonably accommodate student growth through adding new classrooms or expanding/renovating existing school buildings and sites,” said Mayor Pachal.

Langley City has a great working relationship with the Ministry of Education and the School District 35 Board and we look forward to collaboratively ensuring that the necessary funds are allocated accordingly for the construction, expansion, or renovation of Langley City schools to meet current and future

This is a repost of a press release from Langley City's website. This blog is not official City communication.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Langley City's Calls to Action for the Provincial Government

At the beginning of May, local government representatives from the Lower Mainland will gather in Whistler for the annual Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) conference. One of the main parts of the conference is debating various resolutions submitted by member municipalities and regional districts.

If they receive majority support during the debates, these resolutions are submitted to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) for debate by people representing all local governments in our province at the fall UBCM conference. If supported at the UBCM annual conference, UBCM will submit them to the province for consideration.

This may seem like a lot of process, more than just writing a letter to the provincial government directly. But, the idea is that resolutions from all local governments in BC carry more weight than a letter from just one or two municipalities.

At last night's meeting, Langley City Council endorsed sending four resolutions to the LMLGA annual conference for debate.

The first resolution calls on the provincial government to implement a cost-recovery model to compensate local governments when local fire services respond to medical calls (as health care is a provincial mandate.)

The second resolution calls on the provincial government to identify and address current gaps in provincial courts, including updating the plan for court expansion projects and new locations to improve access and keep up with population growth.

The third resolution calls on the provincial government to roll out the "Belonging in BC: A collaborative plan to prevent and reduce homelessness," including funding expanding permanent shelters with associated program support to all municipalities in BC.

The fourth resolution calls on the province to provide additional funding to the local government to support the updating of Official Community Plans and Engineering Servicing Plan, as well as flagging additional requirements such as schools and hospital expansion due to the province's new legislation around housing and population growth.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Working on the Basics: $3.5 Million Water, Sewer, Road Renewal Project in Simonds Neighbourhood

In Langley City, we focus on the basics, such as renewing water mains, sewer lines, and roads.

While there is a lot of renewal going on in our north of the Nicomekl neighbourhoods, we also have major projects going on in our southern neighbourhoods as well, such as the $3.5 million investment to replace ageing water mains, storm sewer, and road renewal in the 202 Street area south of 48 Avenue.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

From the Mayor’s Office: An Important Open Letter to Langley City

Langley City Council

Dear Residents of Langley City,

I wanted to take a moment to update you on some important developments within our community as we consider the 2024 Budget.

Our primary focus for this plan is to enhance community safety and invest in essential infrastructure. To that end, we have proposed several key initiatives:

Community Safety Enhancement: We aim to bolster the safety of our city by hiring three new RCMP members, three additional firefighters, an Emergency Management Program Advisor, and a Bylaw Enforcement Officer.

Investing in the Basics: We recognize the importance of maintaining our vital infrastructure. Therefore, we plan to allocate funds for crucial projects such as sanitary sewer repairs, replacing asbestos cement, drainage culvert replacement, and the pedestrian bridge replacement over the Nicomekl River. Additionally, we aim to enhance community events like Community Day, Remembrance Day, and the Magic of Christmas to bring our community together in celebration and remembrance.

You can find detailed information about the financial plan on our website here: https://www.langleycity.ca/FinancialPlans

I want to emphasize Langley City’s residential property taxes are one of the lowest in Metro Vancouver. I encourage residents to consider the Property Tax Prepayment Program, which allows you to make 11 monthly installments toward next year’s property tax while earning interest on your prepayment balance. Additionally, the Province of BC offers a Property Deferment Program for eligible residents.

It is with regret that we must address the recent decision by Langley Township Council to deintegrate the joint Langley RCMP Detachment, a shared police force that has served both communities successfully for decades. I want to clarify that Langley City was not consulted nor provided with any detailed financial analysis supporting the claim that we are not paying our fair share of policing costs. As determined with the Township in 2007, the City is responsible for one-third of the costs and as agreed we have and do pay for one-third of the RCMP.

Read more information about the deintegration of the joint Langley RCMP Detachment:
https://www.langleycity.ca/TownshipConsidersRCMPDeintegration
https://www.langleycity.ca/TownshipDeintegratesRCMP

In our commitment to transparency and community engagement, we have started several new initiatives:

Through meaningful collaboration, the City and the community can come together to deliver solutions and actionable items to address issues like health and social needs, homelessness, housing, inclusion, diversity, community safety, and well-being.

Given the urgent need to take action in our community, Council has endorsed the City taking on the role of facilitating coordinated access and support for vulnerable individuals. This is done by engaging senior government partners and agencies, such as BC Housing, Fraser Health, Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, and local nonprofit agencies to provide direct service to our vulnerable community members. This initiative aims to provide streamlined referrals, housing, and access to support services across Metro Vancouver. This system will be fully activated by Spring of this year.

The Citizens’ Assembly on Community Safety Reform, is a participatory democracy initiative to engage a diverse cross-section of our community, such as residents, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and advocates in meaningful dialogue for meaningful change. Together the City and the community will explore innovative solutions to make strides in enhancing community safety and determine the most effective ways to address calls for service in a timely and resource-effective manner.

We will be selecting the Assembly Members in early 2024, so stay tuned for more information in the upcoming months.

This is indeed an exciting and transformative time for Langley City as we continue to work together to make our community safer and more resilient.

On behalf of Langley City Council.

Sincerely,
Nathan Pachal
Mayor of Langley City

This is a repost of the letter which appears in today's Langley Advance Times as official City communication. This blog is not official City communication.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Updates to regional growth strategy include new "Langley Town Centre Langley Township" and "Langley Town Centre Langley City" mapping

From time to time, the Metro Vancouver Regional District updates the regional growth strategy, Metro 2050, with housekeeping changes such as fixing inconsistencies with mapping and labelling. The Regional District also updates the growth strategy to align the regional growth strategy with agreed-upon municipal Official Community Plan updates. Without getting into the weeds, municipal Official Community Plans must be consistent with regional growth strategies in BC.The regional district board is going through this update process now.

The provincial government now allows up to four housing units to be built on all urban lots by right in Metro Vancouver. The word "urban" is important because we have a rural land use designation in Metro Vancouver. Areas like Salmon River Uplands (Otter) in the Township of Langley are rural. The new provincial housing rules don't apply in rural areas.

There are four villages in Metro Vancouver: Anmore, Belcarra, Bowen Island, and Lions Bay. Except for Lions Bay, they are outside of the "urban" area. As was agreed back in 2022, one proposed update includes moving Lions Bay outside of the urban area, designating it as rural. This change means Lions Bay is not subject to the new provincial housing minimums.

Shows proposed adjustment of the Urban Containment Boundary to exclude Lions Bay and redesignate it as rural. Select the map to enlarge.

There is another interesting labelling change. Metro Vancouver's regional growth strategy aims to concentrate growth in urban centres. Langley City, north of the Nicomekl River and the Willowbrook area in the Township of Langley was traditionally called the "Langley Regional Centre" in regional growth strategies that date back to the 1990s. A proposed update includes breaking up this designation to the "Langley Town Centre Langley Township" and "Langley Town Centre Langley City." It's a mouthful, and though it doesn't have any meaningful impact, it does highlight that there are two municipalities, which is likely a good thing.

Proposed Update to Map 4: Urban Centres and Frequent Transit Development Areas. Select the map to enlarge.

Other proposed changes, beyond minor boundary adjustments and labelling, include updating the Regional Greenway Network and Major Bikeway Network and Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory maps to reflect updates since the adoption of the Metro 2050 regional growth strategy.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Reminder: Langley City Budget In-Person Open House Tonight

A few weeks ago, I posted about Langley City's proposed 2024 budget and 2024-28 Financial Plan.

In previous blog posts, you can learn about some of the proposed new investments into public safety and infrastructure and some of the projects the City proposes to fund this year.

The City also has extensive information on the budget available online. While you can learn about the budget online, there is also an opportunity to talk to City staff and learn about the proposed budget in person.

Tonight is the in-person open house for the proposed budget.

The details are:
Date: February 6th
Time: 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm
Location: Langley City Hall (20399 Douglas Crescent)

You can drop in anytime during those hours and stay for as little or as long as you like. No RSVP is needed.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Housing Update from Minister Ravi Kahlon at Metro Vancouver Council of Councils

On Saturday, Mayors and Councillors of Metro Vancouver municipalities attended the semiannual Metro Vancouver Council of Councils meeting. This meeting allows all local elected representatives to learn about significant regional initiatives at the Metro Vancouver Regional District, ask questions, and provide feedback.

In the fall, the provincial government introduced a suite of legislation around land use, likely the most significant change in BC land-use law in the last 75 years. This was a very special Council of Councils, as it was dedicated to one topic: the provincial changes to land use.

I've talked about these changes in a previous post, but at a high level, the province now, by right, allows people to build up to four units of housing on every lot in urban areas, going up to six units along frequent transit lines. Near SkyTrain Stations and major transit exchanges, the province allows people to build, by right, at a minimum between 8 and 20 stories, depending on the distance. The final change was updates to some funding tools local governments use to still allow the collection of fees to pay for infrastructure even with the new "by right" densities.

At the Council of Councils, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon noted that the province would introduce new legislation to allow local governments to require a certain percentage of affordable housing or housing for people with disabilities in new residential housing projects. He also hinted at legislation for Tenant Relocation Policies. In a previous post, you can learn more about how these changes fit into the Langley City context. In the past, municipalities would negotiate inclusionary zoning and tenant relocation policies as part of the rezoning process. In many cases, this negotiation is no longer possible because of the new "by right" densities. It is good to see that the province plans to plug this gap with new legislation.

If there was one phrase that was used over and over again at the Council of Councils, it was "unintended consequences." Metro Vancouver Regional District staff presented some of their concerns about the provincial housing changes and proposed solutions. The biggest concern is that there are not enough planners and consultants to update local government policies and bylaws within the provincial government's timeline. The Regional District is looking at how it can support member municipalities to meet the aggressive provincial timelines.

A slide from Saturday's Council of Councils meeting shows current single-family areas and the likelihood of densification due to province legislation. Select the image to enlarge.

There is one big concern in my mind: infrastructure. We cannot have increased density without improved transit service. Currently, TransLink is on the path to bankruptcy. Mayors will need to significantly increase TransLink property tax to prevent this bankruptcy and expand transit; the province must also come to the table with new stable operating funding for TransLink. If they don't, transit service will not meet demand and congestion on our roads will skyrocket.

The federal government must also come to the table with water and sewer infrastructure funding. With our population growth driven by federal policy, they must also help pay for the infrastructure required to support this growth.

It was an informative Council of Councils meeting, and I look forward to the next meeting in the fall.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Donate to Help Langley Senior Resources Centre Flood Recovery

Silver Pride Event at  Langley Senior Resources Centre

A few weeks ago, the Langley Senior Resources Society Centre suffered a flood due to a break in a fire sprinkler pipe. The water damage caused extensive damage, and the insurance deductible will be $50,000. Paying this deductible will essentially wipe out all their Christmas fundraising.

While Langley City Council will look into how we can support the Society's recovery, the Society has also launched a new "Rise Above" flood recovery appeal.

You can donate online, by calling, or by dropping by the Senior Resources Centre.

They will have a special drive-thru donation day on Friday, February 2nd, from 10 am to 2 pm.

They will also host a "Love LSRS" Flood Recovery Fundraiser on Wednesday, February 14th, from 4 pm to 8 pm. You can call 604-530-3020 to reserve your seat. Tickets are $45 for members and $50 for non-members.

The Langley Senior Resources Centre is an integral part of our community and provides a lifeline for many seniors. Please consider supporting their fundraising efforts. I will be making my donation today.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Metro Vancouver Regional District Board Votes Against Reducing GHG Emissions in Large Buildings

Large Buildings

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is the only regional district in BC with the delegated authority to regulate air quality. The Regional District Board has also approved various climate change reduction and mitigation policies, including Climate 2050, the regional district's overall vision for climate change adoption and reduction.

The overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 45% of the 2010 level by 2030, with the region becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Buildings are responsible for about a quarter of our region's total greenhouse gas emissions. Drilling down further, buildings over 25,000 sq. ft. are responsible for about a third of those emissions. Put another way, Regional District staff found that about 9,000 buildings in our region cause 9% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. This number is significant.

Consistent with Climate 2050 policies, Metro Vancouver Regional District staff recommended applying a regulatory approach to reduce GHG emissions in these large buildings.

At a high level, the proposed policy would start with large building owners reporting their building's greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2026. The regional district would then set limits for greenhouse gas emissions that would come into force starting in 2028 and would slowly reduce to zero by 2045. Building owners would have to pay a per tonne charge for greenhouse gas emissions caused by fossil fuels over the set limit. Cooking-related emissions and buildings connected to district energy systems would be exempt.

At its January 26th meeting, the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board was asked to support this proposal approach in principle, directing Regional District staff to continue the development of the regulatory framework, including continuing engagement with large building owners.

My understanding is that after a debate, the Regional District Board, in a tight vote, decided against this policy approach.

Langley City's Director, Paul Albrecht, supported reducing emissions from large buildings. I also support the proposed regulatory approach.

I am disappointed that while the Regional District Board approved the bold Climate 2050 vision, it has elected to refrain from taking action within its jurisdiction. I hope there is a path forward, as reducing greenhouse gas emissions from large buildings will have a significant impact in helping our region meet its climate change mitigation goals.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

My Review of the R6 Scott Road RapidBus

Paul and I waiting for the R6. Select the image to enlarge.

A few weekends ago, my friend Paul Hillsdon and I decided to check out the new R6 Scott Road RapidBus.

The R6 pulling into Newton Exchange. Select the image to enlarge.

The Scott Road/72nd Avenue corridor is one of Metro Vancouver's busiest and most congested transit corridors. About 1/3rd of people who travel along this corridor do so on transit, though certain sections are as high as 3/4rds.

RapidBus bus routes include bus priority measures, limited stop service, and enhanced bus stops. All this leads to a faster and more convenient rider experience.

I will start with the best part first. While the limited bus stops and modest bus priority measure on Scott Road, heading northbound, does speed up service, what shined for me was zooming past traffic going southbound on Scott Road in what is probably the closet we have to urban Bus Rapid Transit in our region at the moment. Southbound on Scott Road almost has nearly continuous bus lanes.

The R6 in the centre bus lanes on Scott Road near 72nd Avenue, southbound. Select the image to enlarge.

Hopefully, Surrey can work with TransLink to build more northbound bus lanes in the future.

All the bus stops had shelters, and some had enhanced lighting. I noticed this on 72nd Avenue. The extra lighting is perfect, giving people an enhanced feeling of safety.

An R6 bus stop on Scott Road near 72nd Avenue, southbound. Select the image to enlarge.

I wonder if some bus stops and shelters might be a bit too small, given the number of people using the R6. Hopefully, TransLink or Surrey can expand these shelters to accommodate more riders in time.

The frequency of the R6 was good, so I didn't worry about when the next bus would come.

Overall, this is a massive upgrade from the 319 and provides a quality service that connects Newton, KPU, Strawberry Hill, North Delta, and Scott Road SkyTrain Station.

I made it to Scott Road SkyTrain Station. Select the image to enlarge.

Monday, January 29, 2024

January 22 Council Notes: Budget, Housing, Living Wage Policies, and E-Comm 911 Board Change

Last Monday, Langley City Council gave first and second reading to the proposed 2024 budget. In previous posts, you can read about the overall budget, projects, and why property tax rates are constantly increasing. You can also visit Langley City's website for more information about the budget and how you can provide feedback to Council on the budget.

At the same meeting, Council gave third reading for a 6-storey, 136-unit apartment project at 20619 & 20629 Eastleigh Crescent and a 14-unit townhouse complex at 4503 & 4513 200 Street. Council will consider final reading and approve the issuing of the development permit once City staff and the applicant have completed all the technical requirements for the project and paid all fees and contributions.

Later in the meeting, staff proposed an update to Langley City's Living Wage Policy for City Employees and Contractors. A living wage is the income requirement for a family to afford to live. In Metro Vancouver, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives calculates the annual living wage. In 2023, the living wage was $25.68/hour. City staff proposed changing the policy from being set annually to a rolling five-year average. After a brief debate, the majority of Council decided to keep the existing policy with no changes.

Langley City shares a seat on the E-Comm Board with Surrey, White Rock, and the Township of Langley. E-Comm provides the 911 call answer service in BC, maintains the first responders' communication network in parts of BC, and provides fire and police dispatch services in some communities. Langley City uses the communication network. The board seat rotates among the four municipalities. All four municipalities must agree to the person who sits on the board, though it is more a matter of formality. The seat is currently with the Township of Langley between 2023 and 2027. Last year, Township Council recommended Councillor Barb Martens. Langley City Council received notice that Township Council now recommends Councillor Tim Baillie for the E-Comm board. Langley City Council approved this change.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Why does the property tax rate go up every year in Langley City?

Every year, the property tax rate goes up. Some might wonder why this is the case and why the income and sales tax rates stay constant.

With income tax, as people's overall incomes increase or decrease, so does the amount of money the provincial and federal governments collect. The same thing happens for sales tax. This change is due to the formula "income/cost of good" * "tax rate".

For property tax, it is different. Local governments, such as Langley City, set their annual budget, and then they collect the property tax required to balance the budget. Local governments cannot run a deficit budget

The formula is more complex. 'total property tax required to balance budget' / 'total value of all properties'. This formula gets you the mill rate. The property tax you pay uses the formula 'your property value' * 'mill rate'. I've simplified these formulas and written more details about calculating property tax in a different post.

Local government's significant costs are workers' salaries and purchasing goods and services. Salaries increase, as does the cost of goods and services, making local governments such as Langley City subject to inflation.

Over the years, the cost of providing some services has increased faster than the inflation rate. Policing is our number one cost, consuming about 45% of property tax revenue collected. The cost of policing continues to increase. For example, RCMP officers were paid significantly less than municipal police officers. A few years ago, they signed their first collective agreement, resulting in a significant salary bump. Policing has also become more sophisticated, meaning that more technology and time are required to do their job, leading to increased costs beyond inflation.

The City has also stepped up the services we provide. For example, we have increased the maintenance of our streets and parks, invested more in events, increased firefighting resources to step up preventative inspections, and invested in people to help us shore up our social infrastructure, such as addressing poverty.

I asked City staff to calculate how much the property tax would increase to keep up with inflation, otherwise known as the consumer price index.

The following tables show how much property tax would need to increase just to cover inflation and how much property tax has actually increased for the average detached and attached home in Langley City from 2004 to 2023.

Average Detached Home
Year City Taxes (Actual) City Taxes (Inflation Only)
2004 $ 1,339 $ 1,339
2005 $ 1,409 $ 1,366
2006 $ 1,434 $ 1,390
2007 $ 1,459 $ 1,414
2008 $ 1,492 $ 1,444
2009 $ 1,571 $ 1,444
2010 $ 1,639 $ 1,463
2011 $ 1,685 $ 1,498
2012 $ 1,709 $ 1,514
2013 $ 1,747 $ 1,513
2014 $ 1,797 $ 1,528
2015 $ 1,889 $ 1,545
2016 $ 1,959 $ 1,573
2017 $ 2,065 $ 1,607
2018 $ 2,057 $ 1,651
2019 $ 2,059 $ 1,689
2020 $ 2,117 $ 1,702
2021 $ 2,220 $ 1,750
2022 $ 2,499 $ 1,870
2023 $ 2,793 $ 1,964

Average Attached Home
Year City Taxes (Actual) City Taxes (Inflation Only)
2004 $ 641 $ 641
2005 $ 645 $ 654
2006 $ 684 $ 665
2007 $ 727 $ 676
2008 $ 760 $ 691
2009 $ 792 $ 691
2010 $ 800 $ 700
2011 $ 816 $ 716
2012 $ 807 $ 724
2013 $ 800 $ 724
2014 $ 801 $ 731
2015 $ 778 $ 739
2016 $ 739 $ 753
2017 $ 708 $ 769
2018 $ 809 $ 790
2019 $ 946 $ 808
2020 $ 986 $ 814
2021 $ 1,042 $ 837
2022 $ 1,009 $ 895
2023 $ 1,145 $ 940

For the average attached home, the difference between the inflation only and actual increases is $205 over the last 20 years. The difference is $829 for detaching housing over the last 20 years.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Public Safety and the Basics. Langley City's $26 million 2024 Proposed Projects Budget.

Yesterday, I posted about some of the proposed ongoing changes to Langley City's 2024 budget and 2024-28 Financial Plan. Today, I want to look at our capital projects budget.

Langley City Staff and Council proposes a $26 million capital projects budget for this year.

This year's largest proposed capital project is $11 million to purchase land and design a new RCMP detachment for Langley City. The Township of Langley indicated they want to de-integrate the current joint Langley RCMP detachment. This process will be long and drawn out and requires the provincial government's approval. If approved by the provincial government, which is not a given, this process will likely take a decade. Regardless, Council thought it would be prudent to purchase the land today. We know the cost of land only goes up in value. If the City doesn't need the land, we can put it to another use or sell it for market value.

More on public safety, Council proposes to purchase a new fire truck for $3 million.

Council proposes investing $2.9 million in street improvement projects, including repaving streets and upgrading traffic lights throughout the community.

Council also proposes investing $2.7 million in water system renewal projects and $2.5 million in sewer and storm sewer renewal projects. These investments aren't glitzy stuff, but they are very important. It speaks to Council's desire to invest in the basics.

Council is proposing to invest $1.3 million into parks, including $1 million to replace the pedestrian bridge in the floodplain near 206A Street and $250,000 to create an urban park at the site of the old Langley Hotel in our downtown area.

Finally, Council is proposing to invest $660,000 into recreation and cultural projects to ensure they remain in a good state of repair.

Langley City's capital projects budget isn't flashy but speaks to Council's commitment to investing in public safety and basics.

The high-level breakdown is:

Capital Projects   Categories Investment (Millions)
Public Safety 14.4
Streets 2.9
Water 2.7
Sewer and Storm Sewer 2.6
Parks 1.4
Other Services 1.0
Recreation and Culture 0.6
Total 25.6

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

First Look at Langley City's Proposed 2024 Budget: Investing in Public Safety and the Basics

Last night, Langley City Council gave first and second reading to our proposed 2024 budget and 2024-28 financial plan. Over the next few days, I'll highlight some of the components of the proposed budget. Today, I want to focus on the significant changes that impact the property tax rate for this year.

Local governments, like Langley City, feel the impacts of inflation the same as individuals and businesses. This ongoing inflation means that property taxes must increase year-over-year to provide the same level of service. Compounding the issue is that the cost of supplies and construction has skyrocketed higher than core inflation rates.

To keep the same level of services and upkeep of infrastructure in Langley City, property tax would have to increase by 6.92% without adding additional services or upkeep. Thankful, new construction and people moving to the community means we have new households paying property tax. This new growth helped reduce the inflationary increase from 6.92% to 5.73% for this year's proposed budget.

Council heard clearly from the community that public safety is the number one thing we should be addressing; this is why we are making a generational investment in community safety. Our budget proposed to hire:

3 Additional Police Officers
3 Additional Firefighters
1 Additional Bylaw Officer

These new safety roles will help us keep up with growth and increase enforcement of unsightly properties, graffiti, illegal signage, and improper parking. It will also allow Langley City to increase bike patrols in the trails and parks.

We also know that people value our community events more than ever, so Langley City Council is proposing a modest increase to the Community Day, Remembrance Day, and the Magic of Christmas Festival budgets.

While unsexy, we must invest in the basics like sewer pipes, water lines, and roads. These are core municipal responsibilities. Council is proposing to invest an additional $375,000 per year towards infrastructure renewal for a new proposed total of $1.7 million annually. Best practice states that we should allocate 10% of property tax for infrastructure. With this change, we will be investing 8.4%, so we have some ways to go.

The following table shows the proposed changes and how they make up this year's proposed property tax increase.

Budget Impacts Cost Percent Property Tax
Status Quo Inflationary Increase $2,154,190 5.73%
Infrastructure Renewal $375,000 0.99%
3 Additional RCMP Members $460,000 1.22%
3 Additional Firefighters $510,500 1.35%
1 Additional Bylaw Officer $108,500 0.29%
Emergency Management Program $117,270 0.31%
Community Events $35,000 0.08%
Total $3,760,460 9.97%

For a detached homeowner, this will result in an average monthly property tax increase of $29.50. The average monthly property tax increase for an attached homeowner will be $17. With this change, Langley City will still have among the lowest property taxes in Metro Vancouver.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Transit Service Impacts in Langley City. Most Buses Are Not Operating. Community Shuttles and HandyDART Operating.

No Bus Service

As you may know, CUPE Local 4500 and TransLink's Coast Mountain Bus Company have been negotiating a new collective agreement. The union issued a strike notice earlier, noting that they would walk off the job for 48 hours if both parties could not reach a new collective agreement.

Unfortunately, a new agreement was not reached. As of a few hours ago, there is no conventional bus service in Metro Vancouver, with some limited exceptions, including in Langley City.

Because some buses in Langley City are operated by a different company, the 372, 560, 561, 562, 563, and 564 routes are still running. HandyDART is also operating. For more information, please visit TransLink's website.

Some people might ask what the region's mayors are doing to help get to a new collective agreement. The Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation does not have a role in the collective bargaining process; it is between the unions, TransLink management, and the TransLink board.

The Mayors' Council contributes to and approves TransLink's short-term and long-term transportation investment plans, such as Transport 2050, rolling Investment Plans, and the Access for Everyone Plan, as well as approving fare and property tax changes required to support these plans. Of course, these plans factor in assumed workers' salaries to provide service.

I hope that TransLink and the union mutually reach a new collective agreement sooner rather than later. The last major transit strike in Metro Vancouver was in 2001 and lasted 123 days. You can find out more about the 2001 strike in a CBC article.

For the most current information on transit service in Metro Vancouver, please visit TransLink's website.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

City Park Barbour Diamond Renewal, Council Calls for "Car" Mental Health Program, City Committees

When people are in crisis or see someone in crisis, they may call 911, and the police may attend. With more awareness around the need for people in mental health crises to have specialized support, various "car" programs have been created. The Car 67 program in Surrey pairs a police officer with a mental health professional who responds to emergency calls. This pairing enables a person in crisis to receive an on-site emotional and mental health assessment, helps de-escalate situations, and enables a person to get a referral to ongoing mental health services.

The provincial government recently rolled out an expansion of this program, formally called "Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Teams," to Abbotsford, Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Burnaby, and Chilliwack, leaving Langley City, the Township of Langley, Maple Ridge, and White Rock as some of the only municipalities within the Lower Mainland that don't have this program.

On December 11th, Langley City Council sent a letter to Honourable Mike Farnworth and Honourable Jennifer Whiteside, asking that the provincial government expand this program to Langley. We sent a copy of our request to Township of Langley Council, which also wants this program expanded, to show that we stand together. We also sent letters to Maple Ridge and White Rock Councils, letting them know that we support all our communities receiving Mobile Integrated Crisis Response Teams.

Langley Baseball

On Monday night, Langley City Council approved awarding a tender of $743,382.60 (excluding GST) to Streamline Fencing Ltd. with a $75,000 contingency. The project will replace the end-of-life high mast netting, poles, and backstop dugouts at Barbour Diamond. The project also includes the renewal of the infield. Langley Baseball and others use this facility extensively, so I'm happy to see its renewal.

Council also released the names of people appointed to the Accessibility Advisory Committee, Advisory Design Panel, Board of Variance, Crime Prevention Committee, and Environmental Sustainability Committee for the 2024 term. You can download the list on Langley City's website.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Council Considers 14-Unit Townhouse Project and 6-Storey, 136-Unit Apartment Project Under New Provincial Law.

As you may know, the provincial government recently made it illegal for City Councils to hold public hearings for rezoning applications consistent with a municipality's official community plan for rezoning applications that are majority residential housing.

To allow people to learn and ask questions about rezoning in their neighbourhood, Langley City still provides notification via the newspaper, sends mailouts within 100 metres of rezoning applications, and posts a sign with information about rezoning applications on the subject properties. The City also encourages people to submit written feedback (letters or emails) about proposed rezoning before Council considers first and second readings of rezoning applications. If you have questions in the written feedback, they will be answered.

The City is working on further enhancements for people to learn, ask questions, and provide feedback on rezoning and development applications in our community in a way that complies with provincial law and ensures the efficient processing of rezoning and development applications.

On Monday, Langley City Council gave first and second reading for two rezoning applications following the new provincial law.

The first rezoning application was for a proposed 14-unit townhouse complex at 4503 & 4513 200 Street. The applicant followed Langley City's new "Townhome & Plex-Home Best Practices Guide." This guide ensures that these types of new developments follow "good neighbour design" and address parking and transportation, as well as green space and landscaping. If this development proceeds, six existing trees onsite will be retained.

Rendering of proposed townhouse project at 4503 & 4513 200 Street. Select the image to enlarge.

For more information about this development, please view the architecture and landscaping plans and Langley City's Advisory Design Panel Explanatory Memo.

Council received three pieces of written feedback about this project. Several people attending the Council meeting wanted to speak to Council about the proposed rezoning. I informed them that provincial law makes that illegal, as it would become a public hearing. These folks were upset and had some choice words for Council as they left the meeting. If people have questions or feedback about any rezoning or development after Council has given first and second reading, they can drop by City Hall, email councilmeetings@langleycity.ca, or call 604-514-2800 anytime.

The second rezoning application was for a 6-storey, 136-unit apartment at 20619 & 20629 Eastleigh Crescent. Of note, the trees on the northwest edge of the property, which abut the Wyndham Lane townhouse complex, will be preserved if this project proceeds.

Rendering of proposed apartment at 20619 & 20629 Eastleigh Crescent. Select the image to enlarge.

For more information about this development, please view the architecture and landscaping plans and Langley City's Advisory Design Panel Explanatory Memo.

Council received two pieces of written feedback about this project.

Council will now consider giving third reading to the rezoning applications at an upcoming Council meeting. Third reading is called "approval in principle." Council will consider final reading of each rezoning application once City staff are satisfied that all the technical requirements, deposits, and fees for each application are secured.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Langley City, Other Smaller Cities, and the Crime Severity Index Bias. Doing Something About It.

The Crime Severity Index is a tool that is used to help measure the severity of police-report crime in a community. People know that homicide is a more serious crime compared to causing a disturbance. Traditional crime rates only look at the crime volume rather than the volume and seriousness.

The Crime Severity Index, which Statistics Canada puts together, accounts for volume and seriousness. Simplified, the Crime Severity Index looks at the volume of crime, but each crime is weighted. One homicide would impact the Crime Severity Index of a community more than 1000 “causing a disturbance” as an example. Statics Canada determines the weighting for each type of crime based on the length of convictions people receive. The Crime Severity Index is also divided by population.

Because of how this works, lower-population municipalities tend to have worse Crime Severity Index scores. You can see this bias in action by visiting the Canada Crime Index site and toggling between 5k, 10k, 25k, and 100k.

This population bias is one of the reasons why Langley City and North Battleford can end up on the top of some media reports as “the most dangerous places in Canada,” as opposed to Surrey or Edmonton, for example.

With this in mind, the Mayor of North Battleford is hosting a conference from “February 28-29, 2024, in Saskatoon, comprised of attendees representing the 20 highest ranked communities with populations of more than 10,000 residents to discuss common struggles faced by this ranking system.”

The conference’s outcome will be to find a path forward to change how Statistics Canada reports communities’ Crime Severity Index to account for this population bias.

At last night’s Langley City Council meeting, Council unanimously approved Langley City’s Crime Prevention Committee Chair and Co-Chair Councillors Paul Albrecht and Delaney Mack to attend the conference and be reimbursed for attending. City staff estimate the cost will be $3,000 in total.

I look forward to the outcome of this conference and thank Councillors Albrecht and Mack for being willing to travel to Saskatoon in the dead of winter.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Community Engagement Cafe This Wednesday: Belong in Langley City

Community Engagement Open House

Over the last year, Langley City staff have engaged in a series of pop-up park events, dinners, and cafes, which are part of laying the groundwork for creating our community’s first social infrastructure action plan. This comprehensive plan will look at what is working in Langley City, where there are gaps in our social infrastructure, and how we close those gaps. One of the critical parts of this plan will be measuring outcomes to ensure that the actions of government, non-profits, and the faith community deliver positive outcomes for people.

This Wednesday, Langley City’s Healthy and Restorative Community Dialogue is coming to Downtown Langley as follows:

Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Time: 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Location: Coastal Coffee House,
15 - 20555 56 Ave

This is a drop-in event, so you can come anytime and stay for as little or as long as you want.

The topic of discussion will be about social and cultural equity, diversity, inclusion and access.

If you cannot attend but would still like to share your feedback or experience about living in Langley City, please email Dena Kae Beno at dkbeno@langleycity.ca.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Tell the government you want better transit now! Sign the petition.

Columbia SkyTrain Station

If you’ve taken transit recently, you know our buses and trains are full. In Delta, Surrey, White Rock, Langley City, and the Township of Langley, transit ridership is at record levels and is growing faster than anywhere else in the region.

This demand for transit is why the TransLink Mayors’ Council launched the Access for Everyone plan, which will make generational investments to get most people in Metro Vancouver within an easy walk of fast, frequent, and reliable bus and rail service over the next decade.

While our region’s mayors are ready to invest, the Access for Everyone plan will require a $21 billion investment over the next ten years. Our region cannot do this plan alone; we need the support of the provincial and federal governments.

Yesterday, the Mayors’ Council launched a petition to “Tell the government you want better transit now!”

If you want better transit, please fill out the petition at https://accessforeveryone.ca/petition/

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Updated Metro Vancouver Housing Databook Released

Housing is top of mind for most people, and people are calling for governments to take action to ensure everyone has a home they can afford.

Understanding the complexity of housing and demographics is the first step in developing meaningful action plans to address the housing crisis. Unfortunately, Metro Vancouver is leading Canada regarding the housing crisis. Fortunately, we also have the data to help us make evidence-based action plans to get us out of the crisis.

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is a data clearinghouse for housing and demographic statistics for our region, and one of its premier publications is its "Housing Data Book." Regional District staff recently released a December 2023 update of the databook.

Here is an example of the data about the number of independent-living social housing units as a percentage of total units by municipality. You can see that Langley City has the second-highest percentage of these types of social housing units in Metro Vancouver.

Independent Social Housing Units as Percentage of Total Dwellings, Metro Vancouver, 2022. Select map to enlarge.

The following map shows the percentage of multi-unit housing units completed, such as townhouses and apartments, between 2018 and 2022, of all housing units built.

Multi-Unit Housing Completions as Percentage of Total Housing Completions, Metro Vancouver, 2018 to 2022 (5 year average). Select map to enlarge.

If you like digging into the numbers, read the latest edition of the Metro Vancouver Housing Data Book.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Upcoming Inaugural Meeting of Grassroots "The Langley Initiative"

About a month or so ago, I met Dammy and Armaan, two people who have a passion for Langley City. They told me that Langley City has many good things going for it, but we also have challenges. One of the things they noted is that Langley City lacks a grassroots organization that brings together the community and advocates to government on what matters most to people

I encouraged them to set up an advocacy group. They considered my advice, and they founded the Langley Initiative.

They will be hosting their first meeting as follows:
Thursday, January 18, 2023
7 pm to 8 pm
CoWorks by Elevate (20627 Fraser Highway)

If you are passionate about Langley City, check out their first meeting.

You can learn more at: https://www.thelangleyinitiative.ca/