Letters: Langley Township surplus Land sales would be served by transparency

Dear Editor,

It was reported in March that Township staff were preparing a report identifying Township-­owned properties that could be sold to pay for future infrastructure.

Six months have passed without this staff report being made public. We assume it has not yet been presented to council.

Past policy with regard to the sale of “surplus property” has generated much controversy. The approach that the Township has taken appears to be secretive and reactive. There is a need for a process with greater transparency, one grounded in sound planning.  

The lands belonging to the Township are the collective property of the community of Langley. Decisions regarding surplus properties impact the public good and will affect patterns of development in neighbourhoods in which they are located.

We are particularly concerned that the ecological value of surplus properties be given greater consideration.

Under the current approach, it appears the Township has proceeded without adequately considering the ecology of parcels placed on the market. It has therefore been left to citizens and community groups to bring these issues to the attention of council and Staff.

In response to protest, the Township has made ad hoc corrections that have failed to address the larger problem. The danger is that significant ecosystems could be lost.

Council should direct staff to consult with stewardship groups and other environmental and community groups to assist in the preparation of the staff report.

Upon completion of the staff report, it should be presented to council and released to the public at the same time.

Develop a comprehensive inventory of Township lands that would be publicly accessible on the web. In time this could include the results of ecological surveys of properties prepared by public or private entities.  

Prepare a comprehensive plan for the sale and retention of Township lands that takes into account the ecological value of particular parcels. The impact on Langley aquifers from destruction of forests and wetlands must be considered.

The Township should commit itself to the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed in the development of modern amenities.

Council has made it a uniform practice to invoke Section 90 of the Community Charter as a way of closing meetings of Council to the public when land sales are under consideration. The resulting lack of transparency compounds the difficulties in the issues already discussed.

When a sale is well advised, this practice hinders maximum advertising to prospective buyers, and when a sale is ill advised, it prevents the public from seeing their elected representatives debate the proposal.

The public interest is thus served by greater transparency in both instances. Only exceptional circumstances can justify invoking Section 90 for land sales.

We would encourage council and staff to begin by meeting with community groups prior to the upcoming municipal election. We would be pleased to participate in such a meeting.  

Watchers of Langley Forests and Salmon River Enhancement Society

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