A plan to fund road widening in Willoughby was put before Langley Township council again on Monday afternoon, as the fourth version of the idea was explained by municipal staff.
The Willoughby Arterial Road Completion Amenity Policy (WARCAP) was almost dead last December after council failed to pass any version of it during a flurry of potential amendments.
Resuscitated at the request of Councillor Eric Woodward, who first proposed it early last year, council was shown maps of the four different versions of WARCAP and which roads they would expand, how much it would cost developers, and told what developers and local residents thought of the plans.
WARCAP 4, the current version, would widen significant portions of 208th Street, 80th Avenue, 202A Street, part of 72nd Avenue, and other key local roads.
The most expansive of all the versions of WARCAP, it would also be the most expensive.
It would require the Township to buy up 23 acres of road right of way at an estimated cost of about $74 million.
That would be paid for by amenity contributions from developers throughout Willoughby. The estimated cost per developable acre at that level would be about $82,000.
Removing some streets or portions of streets from the WARCAP plan would bring down the cost to developers.
The amount has varied widely over the last year. The version that went to the public last autumn would have cost about $37,500 per acre. The original version would have cost $63,000 per acre.
While developers pay up front, they are to be eventually reimbursed as the roads are built and adjacent properties developed, said Woodward.
“This preserves the existing economics, but doesn’t force taxpayers to pay any more to solve the problem,” Woodward told the Langley Advance Times.
Township administrator Mark Bakken noted that if the Township does nothing, eventually all the major arterial roads in Willoughby will be widened by developers.
At present, widening takes place piecemeal, with developers on arterial roads completing the portion of road in front of their property. This has left 208th Street, and portions of some other roads including 72nd Avenue and 80th Avenue, a patchwork, with the road ranging from two to three to four lanes, widening and narrowing depending on whether a particular lot has been developed.
Also built by developers are amenities such as sidewalks, which means much of 208th Street is still lined with ditches and asphalt pedestrian paths that date back decades.
WARCAP would give the Township the ability to complete the work earlier, Bakken.
There would likely be a benefit for drivers, but it would not address all traffic issues, said Ramin Seifi, the Township’s manager of engineering and community development.
There have not been definitive studies on congestion on 208th, he said.
Also, Seifi noted there would be at least one extra cost to finishing parts of the road before development – when developers did arrive, the lanes would have to be carved up to install underground water, sewer, and electrical infrastructure.
“When I drive it now, there’s lots of development happening,” said Coun. Blair Whitmarsh. How long would it take for 208th to be fully widened without council doing anything, he asked.
Seifi said it’s estimated that 208th itself would be widened within about 10 years, barring a few holdouts. There are always some properties that don’t develop because owners won’t sell or projects fall through, as happened in Walnut Grove in the 1990s. The Township can buy the right of ways and expand the roads on an ad hoc basis.
How long it would take to expand the roads based on WARCAP depends on how it is used.
Council could wait for money to accumulate in a WARCAP fund before spending it, or it could borrow against the future income expected for the fund, or there could be a hybrid approach, with some borrowing and some spending of money already collected.
Whitmarsh also asked about the idea of expanding the Willoughby-area plan to the whole Township.
Seifi said staff had looked at the idea of simply folding in the cost of widening arterial roads to the development cost charges (DCCs) which all builders must pay to fund related infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks.
“That would have had an impact of doubling our DCC rates,” Seifi said.
It’s estimated that the cost of DCCs for a four-lot subdivision would go from $80,000 to $160,000, he said.
Coun. Bob Long raised the prospect that a WARCAP fee could increase the cost of housing.
“Amenity fees do not increase the cost of housing, they reduce the profit for the land speculator,” said Woodward.
Council has not yet voted on a final form for WARCAP, or whether it will be adopted.