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A $50-million plan is proposed to prepare for rapid transit in Langley City

Described as a ‘bold move’ to buy land, improve facilities, and make other improvements
A report to council by Darrin Leite, Langley City Director of Corporate Services, said if approved, the $50 million would be repaid though a “modest” tax increase over 15 years. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Langley City is considering a $50-million investment in the future, in the form of a budget proposal that would see the municipality borrow $10 million a year over five years to buy land, improve facilities, parks and trails, and make other improvements to prepare for the arrival of SkyTrain.

Langley chief administrative officer Francis Cheung and director of corporate services Darren Leite made the recommendation to council Monday night when they presented the proposed municipal budget.

Council unanimously voted to give the plan preliminary approval.

Cheung described the plan as a “bold move” designed to take advantage of a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity.

“Don’t wait, act now,” the CAO urged.

“SkyTrain is a game changer and we need to be ready.”

READ MORE: Surrey-Langley SkyTrain business case to go to mayor’s council next week

Within the $50-million Nexus investment plan, the largest amount, $31 million, is budgeted for strategic land purchases, including property for a performing arts centre close to the current City hall and Timms Community Centre.

It would spend $10 million on expansions and enhancements to recreation facilities, $6 million in upgrades to Fraser Highway, including the one-way, and Douglas Crescent, and $3 million in parks as well as trails improvement.

A report to council lists several benefits, including an improved quality of life for all residents, putting the City in a “position of strength” to lead development as a land owner, implementing “early wins” to be better prepared for SkyTrain, take advantage of partnership opportunities as well as “deliver greater long-term financial gains to support residential and business programs.”

In his report to council, Leite said the loan would be repaid over 15 years through what were described as “modest” annual property tax increases of less than three per cent per year in the first five years.

Leite estimated the result would be an overall 6.67 per cent tax increase this year, less than the 6.98 per cent in 2019, a year when the City added three firefighters and other staff positions.

An average single-family dwelling in Langley City would pay about $139 more in municipal taxes, while an average multiple family home would pay about $66 more. Water, sewer and solid waste fees brings the total to $180 more for detached houses and $86 dollars for multiple unit residences.

READ MORE: From broad principles to specifics: City Nexus plan enters new phase

It is the next step in the City Nexus of Community Vision plan that aims to prepare for the arrival of rapid transit and the changes it will bring,

The word Nexus was chosen to describe Langley City, as “a portal between two worlds,” Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver.

The goal of the strategy is to make the city a key destination on the new rail transit line and a desired place to live by leveraging rapid transit to make Langley City an important regional hub.

It includes an overhaul of the Official Community Plan and Langley City zoning bylaws, creating an entertainment district with “appropriate” night life, as well as creating a a Nicomekl River District neighbourhood plan.

READ MORE: Langley City prepares for rapid transit arrival

While the City usually runs balanced budgets, borrowing isn’t unheard of.

Leite said the last loan Langley City took out was $7 million for the water reservoir, which was built in 1999.

Residents will get a say on the new borrowing proposal once the regular budget process wraps up, either by going online to fill out a form, or by getting a written form from Timms Community Centre.

If more than 10 per cent of eligible voters oppose the idea, it will go back to council, which has the option of ordering a full referendum, amending the proposed borrowing, or abandoning it.

Within the regular budget are proposals to upgrade aging sewer and water pipes, install bike lanes on Glover Road and 208th Street, and upgrade existing facilities, including Al Anderson pool.

A profit-sharing agreement with Cascades Casino and Resort is projected to generate $7.2 million for the City this year, down slightly from previous years when as much as $7.8 million (in 2018) was generated.

READ MORE: Casino gives Langley City $1 million financial boost

Most of that money will go to capital projects, like road upgrades, improvements to City hall and other similar projects.

About $625,000 will fund various programs, including cleaning up homeless camps ($30,000) grants to community groups ($168,000) and the annual Remembrance Day service ($4,500), which the city is has taken over following the shutdown of the local Legion branch.

An open house to collect public input on the budget is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 6, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Third reading of the budget bylaw is set to take place Monday, Feb. 10, 7 p.m. at City hall, with final reading set for Monday, February 24, 7 p.m. at City hall.

Full details can be viewed online.

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Langley City CAO Francis Cheung described a staff proposal to borrow $50 million as a “bold move” that will make sure the community is ready when rapid transit arrives. (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

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Dan Ferguson

About the Author: Dan Ferguson

Dan Ferguson has worked for a variety of print and broadcast outlets in Canada and the U.S.
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