Each week, we are asking Langley’s elected officials to weigh in on an issue of concern to local residents. They are given a deadline and invited to respond with a maximum 250 words on the matter. This time, each member of Langley Township council was invited to respond to this question.

ADVANCE TIMES EXCLUSIVE

AT YOUR SERVICE: Township council weighs in on lack of industrial land

Q&A: Langley Township council members given chance to address the community on a key local issue

The Langley Advance Times is pleased to introduce this new weekly feature, called “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 each week, we will rotate through Langley City and Langley Township council, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs – before starting at the top of the list again.

RECENT – AT YOUR SERVICE: City council weighs in on supervised consumption sites

The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.

In addition to questions presented by Advance Times staff, we are also open to suggested questions from the public on topics that are of concern to them, editor Roxanne Hooper said.

Elected officials have been advised that we reserve the right to edit their submissions for brevity, legality, and clarity. If a politician’s answer is not included, it could be by error, but is more likely a failure on their part to meet the deadline.

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QUESTION

Each member of council was asked the same question: Should the Township of Langley increase its industrial land base, even if that means less land for commercial, residential, or agricultural use?

RELATED: Langley council ponders transforming 36 acre site into industrial land

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ANSWERS

Mayor Jack Froese

A. Township of Langley planning is guided by various policies, bylaws, neighbourhood plans and official community plans.

The Township’s Sustainability Charter, adopted by council in 2008 – following significant research, expert advice, and community input – presents a vision of the community that meets the social/cultural, economic, and environmental needs of current residents, while ensuring that those needs can continue to be met for future residents.

This provides a key foundation for the Township’s Official Community Plan (OCP) and a balanced approach to development and growth.

The Township also works with Metro Vancouver to align the OCP with the Metro Vancouver regional growth strategy.

To change the agreed upon urban containment boundary and add more industrial lands requires consultation and approval by the Metro Vancouver board.

In 2016, the Township updated the OCP, originally adopted in 1979 – which provides a long-term vision for balanced growth and development.

The OCP was prepared based on many considerations, such as community values of Township residents, best practices, and technical studies.

It provides for an adequate and varied supply of housing, to meet the needs of current and future residents of the community, with convenient access to amenities, employment, services, social and cultural opportunities, sports, and entertainment, all in a safe environment.

Certainly, there is an argument for increasing industrial lands in the Township, but that would mean moving through several layers of previously agreed upon plans that went through extensive public consultation.

We know that there is a shortage of industrial lands in Metro Vancouver, just as there is a shortage of all types of lands.

We need to find better ways to utilize the land we have by looking at other building structures to maximize space, such as multi-storey industrial buildings, parking placed on the roof, or other innovative ways provide more space.

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Councillor Petrina Arnason

A. Land-use decision-making is a critical function of council’s managing, and maintaining, economic and social sustainability and prosperity for our community.

In addition to the Township’s authority, we are governed by regulations from Metro Vancouver regarding the regional growth strategy, which identifies areas suitable for different types of development and activities, as well as the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve regulations.

The latter includes defined conditions and uses for approximately 75 per cent of the Township’s land base, which is set aside for agriculture and associated activities.

These agricultural areas are primarily intended for use, and are supportive of, facilities with an emphasis on food production – which are designed to align with local and provincial objectives meant to protect our regional agricultural land base.

Metro Vancouver is currently undergoing extensive consultation regarding Metro 2050, which review updates the existing 2040 regional growth strategy adopted in 2011.

This policy review includes, amongst other topics, the areas of agriculture, rural lands, as well as industrial and mixed employment designations.

I, therefore, believe that any consideration of agricultural land-use designation changes must be informed through robust engagement with all stakeholders, including Metro Vancouver and the province, with respect to the use of the evolving lens of climate change, adaptation, food security, and the need to provide local resiliency and employment to ensure our economic future success in the Township.

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Councillor David Davis

A. Where does the Township of Langley see themselves in the future?

Are we going to be heavy on industrial use because of our positioning in the Valley to Metro Vancouver, or do we want to maintain a balance within our community?

I guess I would say No, I do not support increasing industrial land by sacrificing agricultural and much needed residential land.

There needs to balance for communities to sustainable.

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Councillor Steve Ferguson

A. Langley Township has quite a bit of industrial land in the form of industrial parks, areas specifically designed for industrial purposes.

In these industrial parks, Langley has always encouraged clean industrial uses that are not harmful to our water or air environments.

Any expansion or introduction of new industrial parks must incorporate any impact on residential areas and set apart from schools, And involve public consultation.

Benefits of industrial parks:

• good paying jobs close to where people live.

• contributing to the Township’s philosophy of providing one job per adult residence

• attracting positive and well-respected businesses and employers

• providing the tax contributions for our community infrastructure such as pools, parks, roads, sewer, water, and other services

• many of the owners and employees contribute to local charities and community organizations

Things to always consider when rezoning any areas of the Township, whether industrial, commercial, or residential:

• impact on the environment (clean industry)

• density and land uses (services and community impact)

• no building in the ALR (Agriculture Land Reserve)

• transit and bus networks (current and future planning)

• where the industrial park fits within the Township’s long-range community plan

In closing, I believe that the Township of Langley is well positioned in its current inventory of industrial lands, and has established future lands appropriately zoned in our long-range Official Community Plans (public consultation is always part of the process).

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Councillor Margaret Kunst

A. Metro Vancouver is facing an industrial land crunch where currently we have less than one per cent available and projected to have no industrial land to be developed by 2030.

This is a problem for the entire region and one that needs to be tackled together by multiple levels of government, if we want to continue to attract investment and create good jobs for people in our region.

After doing a bit of research with the availability and cost of industrial land in Metro Vancouver, many companies looking to invest are now going east to Alberta, where industrial land is less expensive and more available.

Industrial lands are known as employment lands because they provide thousands of good jobs to local residents and help drive our economy.

As our region continues to grow, we need to ensure that we are utilizing our industrial lands to the best possible use and capacity, using our industrial land for industrial purposes.

We absolutely need to continue providing these jobs now and in the future.

Township of Langley has 75 per cent of their lands in the ALR. We are the bread basket to the Fraser Valley.

Agri-tourism is an important economic driver and people love to come out to experience our wineries, berry and dairy farms, as well as the equestrian facilities Langley is known for.

We also know there are some lands in the TOL that are not viable for farming, they never have and never will be, but to take them out of the ALR creates huge problems and an issue no government – it seems – is prepared to deal with.

How we utilize our agriculture lands is also an important conversation to have.

Technologies are changing and advancing in the agriculture sector. There are new ways to grow and cultivate food that need to be explored and new technologies being developed. We need to shorten the food chain as our recent global pandemic has taught us.

Ag tech is the new and emerging industry, one that I hope the Township of Langley can be front and centre in participating in and promoting.

I believe Langley is in a good position with their industrial land at the moment with potentially some lands being added in the near future.

“Finding a balance” is a lovely phrase politician’s like to use, but a difficult concept as it relates to this issue.

Who determines what “balanced” looks like?

It’s a difficult question, and I suppose it depends on what you value.

To answer the question: I don’t think the TOL should increase its industrial land base if it means sacrificing our agriculture, commercial, or residential land at this time.

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Councillor Bob Long

A. The Township’s “community plans” (OCPs) and neighbourhood plans (NCPs) designate the land uses within the municipality though a consultative community process.

Yes, industrial properties provide much needed jobs, agricultural lands, of course, for farming and providing food – so, along with commercial and residential, all uses are extremely important for building community.

Any land owner has the right to attempt a rezoning of its property, but any modifications to the OCP need to be weighed and judged on by council on its specific merits and overall benefits to our municipality.

And then, if it is the conversion from agricultural lands, the Agricultural Land Commission must also give approvals. So it is a very thorough process.

Currently, a large area of the Smith neighbourhood – over by the new 216th Interchange – is planned for employment/industrial lands, and some amendments are currently being considered to expand Gloucester Estates Industrial Park in northeast Langley.

I support both initiatives.

For me, when it comes to council input on land uses, it really is all about balance.

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Councillor Kim Richter

A. Yes. We do need more industrial land, but not at the expense of agricultural land.

In my opinion, unconditionally taking any land away from food production is wrong for current and future generations.

Any new industrial lands must over-compensate for retaining and growing environmental protections, as well as community amenities and infrastructure.

For more information and clarification, please contact me on social media or at krichter@tol.ca.

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Councillor Blair Whitmarsh

A. All lands in the Township – residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial – play an important role in the vibrancy and enjoyment of our community.

Industrial land helps to stimulate the economy by providing local jobs, significantly reduce commute times for Langley residents – allowing them to spend more time with family and friends – and helps to keep taxes lower for both residents and business.

Industrial lands bring so many overall benefits to our community and the Township of Langley does not have enough industrial land.

So, yes, we should be working together to enhance our industrial lands while recognizing how important it is to maintain a strong system of residential, commercial, and agricultural lands.

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Councillor Eric Woodward

A. The expansion of any type of land use always comes at the expense of another.

We must find a balance of land uses in the long-term interest of our community as whole, including for industrial uses.

Only about 2.2 per cent of our land is industrial, so it does feel like we could use a little more.

However, outside of designated urban areas, I don’t support the removal of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

The ALR prevents endless sprawl and preserves our rural character, along with farming.

We can find other ways to increase our industrial land supply.

Council is currently being asked to reward speculation on farmland by rezoning 36 acres of rural land to industrial. It used to be farmland, but was changed by the Supreme Court of BC due to a technicality. Now what do we do?

A change will create significant wealth overnight, up to a $100 million. Taxpayers should participate in this, at least in part, to help pay for items we would have to borrow to do.

Land value partly comes from parks, roads, water, sewer, overpasses and other infrastructure taxpayers have paid for.

Other municipalities are years ahead of us on this, and that has to change.

Managing land use in the interest of taxpayers and land owners requires integrity, new ideas, and a council that supports a meaningful partnership with the private sector while truly supporting economic development, not hindering it.

This is a balance we haven’t yet found, including for industrial uses.

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UP NEXT

Next week’s question has been sent out to Langley school trustees. Their question is: What tools and techniques that were developed during the COVID-19 pandemic should become a permanent part of the Langley educational system?

Stay tuned for their answers.

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If you have a suggested question you’d like to see put to your local council, school board, MLAs, or MPs, please email it to editor@langleyadvancetimes.com. Please include “At Your Service” in the subject line, and make sure to include which political body you wish to see the question addressed to and. It is also necessary to include your name and phone number – in case we need to connect you for any reason.

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