Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature, call it “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley School Board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs [after the federal election Sept. 20] each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.
Langley City councillors are being asked: Should the City open up all residential areas within its four-square-mile municipal borders to high-density redevelopment?
Mayor Val van den Broek
A. High density refers not only to high-rise buildings. For me the definition of higher density simply means new residential and commercial development at a density that is higher than what is typically found in the existing community. This could include a rancher raised up a storey to provide an in-law suite, a legal single family home basement rental suite, or a brownfield apartment/townhome redevelopment. With an increasing population, urban sprawl, and the need for affordable housing, we need to create a variety of housing options for all members of our community. But we must do it strategically and methodically, hence the current revising of our official community plan and zoning bylaws. Revitalization creates a stronger, healthier, and more vibrant community.
Increasing density not only improves air and water quality and protects open space but also redirects investments to our existing towns and cities. It can revitalize existing communities, increase property values, and create more walkable neighbourhoods with access to public transit, hiking, and biking trails. Today’s real demographic and lifestyle changes are inspiring a return to traditional development styles such as pedestrian-friendly higher density developments that offer general health benefits because they give people the option to walk and bike to work, shops, restaurants, and entertainment, and creates opportunities for more shared parking creating a healthier environment & lifestyle for everyone. This is also crucial for reducing our carbon footprint.
Councillor Paul Albrecht
A. To me the short answer to this question is no. There may come a time many years from now that it could happen but not in my lifetime.
The most successful form of high density is located along public transit corridors typically within a five-to-ten-minute walk. The residential area south of the Nicomekl River is not ready for high density development, the only transit options are along 200th Street and 208th Street so very limited.
The City is currently updating and renewing our Official Community Plan (OCP) to shape the future and address the many needs of our City. These needs include our environment, utilities, transit, parks, recreation, culture, education, health care, public safety and housing to name some key focus areas.
We have undertaken a housing inventory to determine the current state of our housing availability and types so that we may identify the missing housing needed for our residents. There needs to be a complete housing continuum in order for residents to move through the housing styles as they are able. Finding and providing that ‘attainable’ first ownership step is usually the most difficult.
It is important for City council and staff to attempt to fill all of these housing needs, this is challenging as the City does not own the lands to provide it. Partnerships and strong relationships with the development industry leaders is critical in finding innovative ways to meet everyone’s goals. It is a challenging and complex issue but everyone should have a roof over their head.
Councillor Teri James
A. The short answer is no.
The Official Community Plan (OCP) in any municipality is a tool used to help guide the management of land use and development. Neighbourhoods are the basic building blocks of the communities in which we live, and the purpose of an OCP is to prepare for the future to create a neighborhood identity, enhance the image of a neighbourhood and protect the stability of a neighbourhood.
Langley City needs all types of development in order to allow people of all ages and income levels to reside here. One area that was identified in the planning of the new Official Community Plan is that we have a “missing middle.” Examples of these are townhouses, duplexes and triplexes. Multi-family developments allow for more affordable, transit accessible housing options that can often provide the first step into the housing market.
The highest density areas envisioned in the new OCP are around the proposed Skytrain station and other areas have been identified as locations suitable for other attached housing forms such as granny flats and garden suites.
Langley City is looking towards the future, and high-density redevelopment in specified areas of our community is part of that vision.
Councillor Gayle Martin
A. No I do not think the city should open up all residential areas to multi-family development. North of the Nicomekl has been designated multi-family for decades, and we are now just seeing multi-family development take place.
I do think there are areas south of the Nicomekl that some multi-family development can take place. This would provide more affordable housing and access to transit.
In the new official community plan provisions for granny suites and garden suites are also provided, again making access to affordable housing.
Councillor Nathan Pachal
A. No. Langley City’s proposed new Official Community Plan encourages all forms of housing, including apartments, townhouses, and detached houses. The new plan envisions the highest density, most affordable housing around the new proposed SkyTrain stations near 203rd Street in Downtown Langley and the “Golden Triangle” bound by Fraser Highway, the Langley Bypass, and 196th Street. Housing density decreases at the fuve-minutes walking distance and again at the 10-minutes walking distance from these proposed SkyTrain stations.
The proposed new Official Community Plan allows properties abutting 200th Street and 208th Street to be townhouses and other attached housing forms to encourage more affordable, transit-accessible housing options for families in Langley City. These housing types are similar to that along 50th Avenue between 201A Street and 203rd Street near Sendall Gardens, and between 207th Street and 208th Street near the south section of City Park.
In certain areas bound by Grade Crescent, 200th Street, the Nicomekl River, and 208th Street, the Official Community Plan will also allow garden suites and granny flats to provide further affordable housing options for people in our community.
Councillor Rudy Storteboom
A. The short answer is no!
Langley City’s Official Community Plan (OCP) identifies a strategy to significantly increase density around the new SkyTrain station but not south of the Nicomekl River floodplain.
Planning continues to include a diversity of housing needs to accommodate seniors, families and singles as well as having commercial and industrial areas.
I don’t expect any significant change to this strategy during my lifetime; and I don’t think this should change.
Councillor Rosemary Wallace
A. Langley City has had an extensive consultation process in gathering information from the public and stakeholders in updating the City’s Official Community Plan and Zoning bylaw to reflect on and build for the future in densifying designated areas in the city.
As once a homeowner in the Simonds and Uplands area, I see the need to maintain the older trees and larger lots with possible opportunity to have extensions to a home, or an opportunity for mini homes on a property to allow for alternative living spaces for families.
The green spaces in parts of Langley City neighbourhoods add to the biodiversity needed in fighting climate change while maintaining intact ecological systems.
Now as a renter in Langley’s City downtown, I see the vision of densification to allow for complete communities that offer an alternative to owning or renting a single house detachment. Creating complete communities allows for affordable living to take place.
Langley City is four square miles and fortunate to have the Nicomekl River flood plain in the center branched off by many trails leading into parks and residential neighbourhoods. I believe in maintaining many of the neighbourhoods without high-density redevelopment and to continue to be innovative in parts of Langley City to allow for much needed housing stock to be built to serve the broader community.
Next week’s Langley Township councillors are being asked:
Should the Township consider pay parking on the streets of Fort Langley to alleviate parking congestion?
Watch for their answers online next Sunday.