Four levels of government gather at Langley town hall

A panel of politicians from four levels of government convened at the Langley Township council chambers for a townhall meeting hosted and moderated by Langley Advance editor Bob Groeneveld.

It will interesting to see what people are interested in, school board vice chair Rob McFarlane commented moments before the 90-minute forum began.

The panel consisted of Langley MP Mark Warawa, MLA Mary Polak, Township Mayor Jack Froese, and McFarlane, who stepped in for board chairman Wendy Johnson who was unwell.

The topics and comments were broad, ranging through the sudden death of former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, the spectre of abolishing cursive writing from the school curriculum, and the controversial proposed redevelopment of Brookswood and Fernridge.

Brookswood/Fernridge prompted a question from one of the three dozen people who attended the meeting. If council doesn’t heed the wishes of the majority of residents from those two neighbourhoods, perhaps separating from the Township could be explored, one person wondered.

The question was put to Mayor Jack Froese, who gave a brief history of the Brookswood/Fernridge Plan, a revision of which was proposed 10 years ago.

In 2011, the Township began in earnest the process to update the plan. A subsequent proposal was defeated in late March, but council instructed staff “to start the process all over again,” Froese remarked.

“I think the plan needs to be updated,” said Froese, who had been one of only two council members who supported the most recent Brookswood/Fernridge re-development plan. “I believe we can always improve upon things. I’m trusting that the new plan will address some of those [residents’] concerns. “

Addressing the comment on the neighbourhoods breaking away from the rest of the Township, Froese said that is something supporters would have to discuss with the provincial government.

Warawa dealt with a question that was more of a statement, a criticism that the public has been left out of the discussions concerning the Aldergrove border crossing. Warawa noted that seven years ago, the government announced that the building, which is poor repair and would not withstand an earthquake, would be replaced.

He noted that, of the four crossings in Langley, Abbotsford, and Surrey, Aldergrove’s is the second busiest for commercial traffic, despite its closure from midnight to 8 a.m.; the others are open 24 hours.

Polak was quizzed on the topic of water, in light of the Nestle company taking B.C. water, without compensating the province, bottling it, and selling it back to residents.

She said the government is working through the Water Sustainability Act which, when adopted, will replace the Water Act that has been in existence for more than 100 years, and will regulate both surface and ground water.

The new legislation will for the first time address pricing, Polak revealed, adding that the possibility of creating a revenue stream for water and treating the resource in much the same way as oil and gas, “is not the simplest thing in the world.”

Regarding the possibility that cursive writing will be taken out of the curriculum, as one U.S. state has already proposed, McFarlane gave resounding assurance that that element would not be tampered with by the local board: “I can’t see cursive writing come out of the curriculum,” he said, adding he “would be astonished” if it were to be abolished.

Referring to the sudden death of Flaherty, Warawa said it was one occasion when partisanship was set aside.

Froese was asked if there was a “vision” in Township planning and engineering to develop municipal roads that optimize traffic flow, rather than installing traffic lights in new developments.

He replied that, if the Township went ahead and built roads in anticipation of future development, such multi-million-dollar investment could be in peril if there was an economic downturn.

The question appeared to refer to Willoughby, which Freose said is “an area of transition… as Walnut Grove was 25 years ago.”

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