Township of Langley University District – Wall Town House Development on Farm Land vs Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy – The Facts!

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

Rich Coleman, Mayor Froese and members of Council

“Not letting the facts get in the way of a good story”!

Another land deal? It is all symptomatic of what is wrong in the Township of Langley!

Ask WHY? WHO REALLY BENEFITS?

The University District idea within the Township of Langley (TOL) is not new; it has been around for years. Unfortunately, like so many issues within our community, it is sadly lacking in any kind of democratic public process thanks to the control of a few!! This is the same municipal government you continue to elect time after time after time after time – WHY?

A little history – During my term as Mayor (2008 – 2011) I had regular meetings with Jonathan Raymond President of Trinity University (a very important and valuable corporate citizen to the Township of Langley) and follow up meetings with TOL senior staff on the subject of Trinity issues which included the University District concept. There were a number of conceptual plans for the University District idea that had been somewhat in limbo due to the ALR approval process. Through my initiative, in an effort to find some direction and approval we arranged for members of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) South Coast Panel of the day (Commissioners Bose, Tomlinson, Pranger and Chair Bullock); to meet and have lunch with Senior Staff of the TOL and Trinity University as well as myself at the university. Through those efforts and subsequent application, it was approved. BUT make no mistake about it, this approval / support was for a very confined and limited area that supports a very valuable educational institution that has been a part of the Township of Langley for decades.

Now the intriguing pieces of this puzzle – How did this confrontation with Metro come about?

Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) – Metro Vancouver, as required by Provincial Legislation, has had a Regional Growth Strategy in place since the late 80s. This was put in place to control growth by drawing Urban Boundaries within each member Municipality to stop urban sprawl as well as protecting Green Zones and the ALR. As required by that legislation is the need to review and update that RGS every so many years. The RGS must be unanimously adopted by all members of Metro or it goes to arbitration involving the Provincial Minister. Immediately following the 2008 election Metro Vancouver initiated the renewal and review of the RGS. As the Township of Langley Metro Director involved directly in discussions involving that RGS renewal process I served notice to Metro initially that we would probably be their first arbitration case. I, members of Council and staff were very concerned about the process and their ultimate intent. After two and a half years of discussion, negotiation, numerous public and private meetings with Senior Metro Staff, members of our Council and our Senior Staff and much more, recognizing the principle of the RGS and its governing Provincial Legislation, the NEW RGS was adopted unanimously by all members of the Township of Langley Council, all member Municipalities and their Councils as well as the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors.

So to Rich Coleman and his comments (May22/12 Langley Times) “Metro Vancouver Regional District has gone too far by meddling in Township business needs to be reined in”! It is obvious and not surprising that he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Look at YOUR government Rich! The Langley Times Editorial “Local land use decisions should not be in the hands of Metro Vancouver’s Board period”! This editorial reflects the Times (local media) complete lack of due diligence and knowledge about what they are writing about. They (Langley Times) should be embarrassed and are doing a disservice to TOL residents. Maybe the Langley Times should have gone after Coleman and Polak for their governments’ perceived interference directing Metro per THEIR legislation!  – But then again that would be too uncomfortable as it would compromise their pandering to government MLAs!

The Wall Development proposal and its apparent conditional approval by the ALC in 2007 did not come to my attention until the final year of my term. When I first heard of this I frankly couldn’t believe it, even in the Wild Wild West of property deals known as the Township of Langley. I have seen this decision which I might add came about prior to the appointment of the current ALC Chairman Richard Bullock, a man I have great respect for. There are many questions about that decision of 2007! Now let’s be very clear, the Wall proposal, while receiving conditional ALC approval in 2007, (It was rejected on a couple of occasions in the early 2000s by a different ALC panel) was NEVER tied to or discussed with the University District plan in any way shape or form, I was involved in those discussions! Now interestingly enough, the NEW Mayor and his Council are lighting their hair on fire over Metro Vancouver squashing their by-law, in short because they do not fit the terms of the RGS.

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? The Township of Langley Council has involved lawyers (Don Lidstone, an interesting choice) vs Metro Vancouver and are talking litigation at our expense all over the RGS that members of Township of Langley Council and Staff supported unanimously, a provincial legal requirement. What – Another land deal?

Further, in an effort to try to get around Metro’s legal argument they filed an application with the ALC to increase the original size of the University District to somewhere around four times its original size enjoining the Wall Proposal and much more within its boundaries. It is very interesting that this move embraced the private property of a very well-known Township of Langley family. I guess we are just to believe that this was an accident? The ALC has since rejected that proposal but the Township have brought back the original boundaries adding on the Wall Townhouse Development as an attachment to the original University District. This was NEVER the case!

This is an outrageous attempt at a private property deal on farmland, but it is in keeping with the Township of Langley’s methods and ways of doing business. Now who is this going to benefit?

Important side-note for the record – the Wall family and/or their owned companies were significant contributors to the Provincial Liberal Party, the leadership campaign of Premier Christy Clark as well as donating to a number of Township of Langley Councilors. Just Saying!

Going back to the introduction of the FIRST by-laws for the original University District and the Wall Development? By-Laws for 1st and 2nd reading were introduced for each project separately at the last Council Meeting before the last election (Last council) – In my opinion it was totally out of line for staff to introduce these by-laws in the last meeting of the old council, prior to the election. Having said that, I voted for both as under a principle I believe strongly in and my voting record supports this, the proponent (owner) has the right to be heard and be considered as does the public have the right to respond. Again remember, for the record, these two proposals came forward as two distinctly different items (by-laws) for consideration. They weren’t attached in any way. Now under the newly elected council, many of the same old faces, after a lengthy Public Hearing (large opposition) 3rd reading was given on the original University District by-law. The Wall proposal did not come forward for a reading at that time.

As mentioned above, the Township by-law was sent to Metro for approval as required under Provincial Legislation (Rich Coleman please note) and was denied, the by-law was quashed. So where are we now? The Township of Langley has since rescinded the original by-laws and has adopted a new singular by-law which covers the original University District plus the Wall Townhouse Development located smack in the middle of one of the finest farm properties in the valley. This NEW by-law has received 1st and 2nd reading and is now in the middle of the Public Hearing process. The Public Hearing has not concluded, it has been held and then adjourned a couple of times. This proposal has faced considerable opposition (not that that matters with this council) and is now adjourned to mid-April. I would encourage a large turnout when this Public Hearing reconvenes. The Township of Langley is awaiting a report from the Agricultural Land Commission and then the TOL will have to deal with Metro Vancouver and it’s non-compliance with the RGS (Regional Growth Strategy).

So once again the Township of Langley, spurred on by its resident Bully MLA Rich Coleman (see Rich Coleman comment) is trying to circumvent a provincially legislated requirement in the RGS, something that every municipality and/or City in Metro Vancouver is required to follow. Whether you or I like the idea of Metro Vancouver dictating that we follow the legislated requirement is immaterial, it is that way due to a provincially legislated mandate. I can tell you from first-hand knowledge, every member of Metro Vancouver has the same or similar problems, if the Township is permitted in this case, every member will be following suit! This attempt is particularly galling given the attempt to meld a legitimate concept (original plan for the University District) in with a well- connected private property deal.

It is yet another example of an outrageous attempt to manipulate or ignore the rules for the sole benefit of a few. IF you are OK or don’t see a problem with this happening I would suggest you would be OK providing special treatment to a very few at taxpayer’s expense. For those that suggest that this is an anti-university position, you are completely wrong, it is about treating everyone with fairness, morally and legally.

I would encourage, based on my years of inside experience in the Township of Langley, for taxpayers when considering issues such as I am presenting, to carry with them a good dose of skepticism. It is human nature not to do so I understand that but whenever you challenge issues such as this there is an old saying; “Connect the dots, follow the money!”

NOTE: There have been some interesting property sales, purchases and swap activity surrounding the proposed University District. This will have to be a topic for another day.

So as it is life in the Township of Langley! Enjoy what is happening so far? Just think, if we band together we could stop this kind of government!

RG

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Later this week I will post my thoughts on Translink and the knowledge I gained from being on the inside sitting at the Translink Mayor’s Council table. The problem – Interference by the Provincial Government in the governance model has made it completely dysfunctional! More later in the week.

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, stay involved and VOTE!!!

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Comments
  1. John M. says:

    Isn’t it strange that so many of the motions that ignore the opinions of TOL residents involve real estate deals in one way or another. It’s usually rezoning, changing building heights, poking at ALR changes, etc, when public opinion is ignored. Do I smell that little rodent from Denmark in the picture here?

    • RG says:

      John: It is something that is pervasive in the Township and not in any way is it in the best interest of Township taxpayers. The Township used to own a property portfolio of somewhere around $500 million. After what I have seen in the past year there has been a fire sale on taxpayer assets. It has to stop. RG

    • Langley Gadfly says:

      John, the reason that most controversies center around real estate deals is because they is almost 90% of the jurisdiction of the municipal government. They have little authority outside of rezoning/building permits. Community planning all falls into the real estate pervue. Trust me, if more real estate related material was in the provincial jurisdiction, you would see that a whole lot more rampant (just look at Coleman’s concern with the Casino).

      Looking back, and this is more of a response to RG’s comment below, you need to look at what the purpose to holding properties is. Are they properties that are being held for public benefit so that we can later build schools, parks, public spaces, etc. or are they being held in order to be sold at a higher resale value to pay for amenities?

      This is the crux of the issue. While I would like to think that at least in some instances, TOL is selling highly valuable land at the highest price of the real estate cycle, I don’t believe this is the case. For example, they are selling a forest at likely dirt cheap prices, while purchasing extremely high priced development land for undisclosed projects.They trade away high-priced land where schools should be, gift-wrapping them to developers for dirt in no-where land at no benefit to the stakeholders.

      The jury is still out whether it is corruption or incompetence, but either way, it ain’t pretty.

      • Rick G says:

        The taxpayers of the Township of Langley own over $500 million in property, at least they did when I left office. They are broken out into about 5 categories of properties, a substantial amount in raw land that is not in inventory for parks and/or schools. There was no record of these prior to my election in 2008 (we tried to obtain records on three occasions) I ensured after the election that this information be public. There are now binders at the Municipal Hall that are available for public viewing for all to see by property category. This is not rocket science, it is about managing an asset through good planning, the same way the city of Vancouver has done for close to 30 years (Property Endowment Trust Fund) which is now worth in excess of $2.5 billion. There are examples of property being advertised and sold in a questionable way for a questionable amount of money. Anyone remember the Dixon Pit Property?

        The problem in the Township of Langley per Rich Coleman’s comment to me, “We are OK with the land deals” now the simple questions is who is WE?

  2. greenman says:

    Global news at 6 had a piece about how much Abbotsford is subdizing the Abbortsford Heat. I wonder how much taxpayers are subsidizing the Langley Thunder. Jordan Bateman: care to wade into this? Township council is definitely not looking after our interest. Rick please tell us how much money we are wasting how much land are we selling to pay for a hockey team that most people dont give a damn?

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