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.