To avoid legal action by Metro Vancouver Regional District, Township council has voted to consider including the controversial Wall farm housing development in the rezoning and Rural Plan amendment bylaws aimed at creating university district around Trinity Western, a private Christian school.
At a special council meeting on Aug. 1, council agreed to link the two entities in a single bylaw that will go to a public hearing.
Earlier this year, Metro Van said that the bylaws for the university district did not conform to the Regional Growth Strategy, nor did they comply with Langley’s own regional context statement.
Council was forced to rescind the TWU bylaws; a bylaw to rezone the Wall property at 22415 72 Ave., for 67 houses and 18 coach houses was subsequently stalled at third reading.
On March 15, Metro Vancouver said it would file a quashing motion pertaining to the OCP amendment and rezoning bylaws for the university district lands. The bylaws were filed jointly by Trinity and the Township.
Metro also revealed that it had asked chairman Derek Corrigan to set up a task force that would instruct Metro’s legal team to probe the proceedings of the Township’s amendments of the Official Community Plan.
Township administrator Mark Bakken told council that a decision had to be made so that Township officials could continue negotiating with Metro Van.
At issue, Bakken explained to council, is who has authority to rule on land-use decisions.
“The Township takes the position that Township council makes the decision,” Bakken said.
Metro says no, it’s their decision to make, he added.
Staff at both levels are due to meet on Aug. 9, and the resolution to amend the Trinity plan to include the Wall Farm housing proposal was necessary as a foundation for the meeting to take place.
This land, on the southeast corner of Glover Road and Highway 10, now becomes part of the Trinity’s vision for a university district.
Currently, the Trinity campus is contained by Glover Road and the railway tracks.
On July 23, council gave first and second readings to an Official Community Plan amendment and rezoning bylaws covering the university district and Wall housing development.
Several councillors were caught unawares until Wednesday’s meeting that in that council package, the boundary of the university district had been significantly broadened, stretching to 216 Street and Highway 1, to the west and within a few hundred metres of the Highway 1/232 Street interchange to the east. That land covers 444 acres, 160 of which are still in private hands.
By contrast, the UBC district covers 1,005 acres.
Most of the land within the new boundary, Bakken said, “is either owned or has the ability to be controlled by the Township,Trinity, or the government.”
The university district, as delineated in the latest maps, extends beyond the special study previously approved by Metro Vancouver.
Opponents say that while the university district encompasses many school-related uses, including housing for students and faculty, there will be substantial pressure to develop beyond the urban containment boundary.
Much of the property is in the ALR.
“I am very concerned about ‘packaging’ the Wall (a private developer) proposal with the University District (an educational institution) proposal on any level,” Councillor Kim Richter said.
“Doing so could very well torpedo both applications with Metro Vancouver,” she warned.
There is absolutely no good reason for the Wall proposal to be “piggybacked” on the TWU proposal, she said, adding that “in the bigger and longer term picture, it is far more important for the Township to have a university district than it is for the Township to have a private housing development in the middle of agricultural land just south of the university district.”
She said that the Wall proposal should stand on its own merit, rather than sliding through on the back of a much-needed vision of a world-class university district.
“The optics of doing so are dangerous and open to great criticism,” Richter said.
“I find it very distasteful that a private developer is getting his land into the university district,” she said.
Bakken said that the Wall proposal “stands independent of the university district” and there was no assurance that Metro Vancouver would approve the process if it was removed.
The only link is that the Wall property proposes to include housing for faculty, he added.
“It doesn’t feel right to me,” Councillor David Davis said. “Wall seems to be piggybacking on Trinity’s issues. In what way is it tied to the university district? Legally, morally, or just a handshake?”
He called the Wall land housing plan “spot zoning.”
Davis, whose family has farmed in the area for more than a century, voted in favour of the university district earlier this year.
“I’m wondering if I made a mistake,” he said.
Davis was also concerned that council was discussing the issue during the summer break, when many residents are on holiday.
Councillor Charlie Fox was in favour, and warned that Metro’s involvement was a bellwether issue.
“This is really the tip of the iceberg,” he said, predicting that Metro will intervene in land use decisions of other municipalities.
“They have just chosen to take Langley on first.”
Davis, Richter and Councillor Michelle Sparrow voted against the motion, and all asked why the university district and the Wall proposal were being linked.
“It was part of the university district all along,” Councillor Grant Ward offered.
“It was our decision.”
Not so, Richter said later, noting that it wasn’t until the July 23 meeting that the university district and the Wall proposal were bundled.
“A university district is visionary, but to have it bundled with a private developer’s housing development is wrong.
“That is the issue and it has complicated matters needlessly,” she said.