Development in the Township of Langley…. More Inconvenient Facts!! Can home owners trust this Council to protect their interests? Their voting record suggests NOT! When are we going to wake up?

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

I am reasonably sure that when you decided to buy your home in the Township of Langley you checked into what Community Plans and zoning were in place, right! After all, you would have to believe that your Municipal Government (elected council) can be trusted to protect your largest personal investment? Well that is the way it should work!! Unfortunately in the Township of Langley there are other forces at play.

Why would I suggest such a thing of our Councils past and present? Look at the Facts, the “Inconvenient Facts” for some! I can’t make these things up! I learned very early, when first elected in Delta, you cannot escape your voting record. Politics are very unforgiving. Ignore the wishes of the electorate at your peril. Lie about your intentions in government at your peril. The voters WILL send you a message. You may get away with it in the short term BUT NOT in the long term. (That should be the case.) I believe the day of reckoning will come for the majority sitting on the current council.

As a staunch supporter of Free Enterprise, I am sorry to have to say that this is an “Inconvenient Fact” the B.C. Liberal Party and its candidates will learn in spades May 14th.

Challenging the decisions of Council – The following are examples of blatant wrong doing, in my opinion? Are they actionable? That is an interesting argument.

  • An interesting side-note to consider – The current Liberal Government under Gordon Campbell adopted legislation called “The Community Charter” in 2003 which replaced much of the old Municipal Act. In my opinion it was another inappropriate Liberal move that did away with a number of oversight protective mechanisms that were in place. In response to a question from me on behalf of a resident on a particular issue while I was in office to the Ministry responsible; their answer “they would have to litigate”. In other words, if in your opinion your council has breached the law on something affecting you, other than seeking the help of the Ombudsmen your only choice is to sue. Suing carries with it a significant cost and risk, win or lose. If some of these decisions are not illegal they are immoral as hell! More should be expected of our council.

A Council or Councilor can only be measured by their performance which includes their voting record. What has been very clear for a decade or more, for whatever reason, the majority of Council in the Township seems to be very willing to limit public input and/or ignore public opinion. Staff has developed an entrenched; some would say creative culture of making development fit the wishes of developers and not the community and taxpayers it serves. Why?

As hard as the following comments are to believe, they tell an interesting story of the contempt the current Mayor of the Township of Langley has for Public Hearings and Public Consultation – He isn’t doing this by himself, he needs and is getting the support of the majority of council.

(Pete McMartin Vancouver Sun) Nov. 29/12 RE Coulter Berry Building in Fort Langley

Mayor Froese was asked why he voted for it despite the evidence of so much local opposition states:

  • “He does not govern by petition”.

Of the preponderance of speakers opposing the variance at the official hearings Mayor Froese states:

  • “We really have to listen to the silence of the people who didn’t come out.”

Pete McMartin states “How Froese intuited that this absent cohorts silence was in favor of the Coulter Berry development and not against it, or split down the middle, is a mystery I will leave with him. Politicians have powers of the mind I cannot fathom.” Despite the size of the opposition only one councilor voted against, it sure says something about what is going on, doesn’t it!

Mayor Jack Froese, his comments and the voting record of the majority of Council are the “Inconvenient Facts” that support the criticism being directed at them.

The Township’s Community Planning process is fundamentally wrong – The Township of Langley has created a process that is ripe for abuse. In short they divide up an area, appoint professional staff to conduct a Community Planning Charet, invite residents to take part for about six hours, go back to the office and magically a Community or Neighborhood Plan is presented about six months later. (A period of time sufficient that those that participated forget about what was collectively asked for).

What should happen in the Community / Neighborhood Planning process? Look at Aldergrove! During the 2008 election I promised residents in Aldergrove that we would revisit their Community Plan as they had been consistently forgotten about. Staff, following my platform brought a report to Council dealing with initiating the Aldergrove Planning process; unfortunately it was following their Planning Charet format. This appeared on the Draft Agenda, which I then had withdrawn from the Agenda for that week. I met with our CAO and Director of Planning to lay out a NEW planning process, one I wanted Council to consider for Aldergrove. It was passed. The NEW process; we advertised within the community for residents, business owners, non-profits, School Board and Council to sit on a Community Planning Committee. Council selected a committee from applicants. They selected a Chair for all meetings. We appointed a professional to guide them but they were in charge of holding meetings and managing the process. The result was a Community Plan the substantial majority could support. It was passed by Council.     

The Inconvenient Facts – Just a few examples of bad practice:

Fort Langley’s Bedford Landing Parklane Waterfront Condominiums “The Condo Wall” – In mid-2008 the first phase of the ParkLane condominiums on the waterfront of Fort Langley was approved at 3rd reading for a three story development. At 4th Reading and Development Permit Phase, despite resounding objection from the community, Council approves a four story development. Now known as the “Condo Wall”. Under the Community Charter you can only change Form, Character and Design after 3rd reading. Adding an additional floor breaches that rule in my opinion. All of this happened before the 2008 election.

Fort Langley’s Bedford Landing Parklane Waterfront Condominiums “The Condo Wall” – The second phase of the Park Lane Condo Development, despite numerous public meetings and public dialogue, a four story configuration was approved. The Public Hearing was contentious with very significant public opposition in the form of petition and speakers at the Public Hearing. In my opinion the public consultation was a token sham! All of the 2nd phase occurred post the 2008 election.

The Forewest Condominium Development on the bottom of the Willoughby Slopes. Staff worked with the developer and made an attempt in my last year in office to change the OCP and complete a rezoning (two by-laws) in one process that would completely change the density and character of this community. With a very strong opposition it was turned down. With very little change from the original proposal this development was brought back in front of the New Council, received strong opposition and it was approved. Ask yourself WHY?

The Coulter Berry Building in Fort Langley – How is it possible that Council passed the Statewood application for the Coulter Berry building which did not comply with the OCP or the Heritage Conservation area, was turned down by TOL staff in Heritage and Planning and yet was passed 8-1 when the developer presented it to Council. This building for the record is three stories or 14.5 feet over the height limit of 29 feet and two stories. Site coverage exceeded the allowable limit by 7% and it was contrary to the town’s main street heritage character. Approval was given despite wide spread opposition of a 950 person petition and 2 – 1 in opposition at the 2 evening Public Hearing. (There are only roughly 2,500 that live in Fort Langley)

  • Now the kicker! In Fort Langley, – Eric Woodward, the owner of the Coulter Berry building, owner of a substantial property portfolio in the Fort, a Township of Langley appointee to the Heritage Advisory Committee, President of the Fort Langley BIA, fellow resident with Jack Froese in Bedford Landing and a donor of $2,000 to Jack Froese in the last election received approval!

It is important to note that three other builders adapted their new buildings in Fort Langley to the OCP. Why Special Treatment? Only in the Township of Langley you say! Are you surprised?

Athenry Development / Willoughby – During the week of Nov. 22nd, 2010 I became aware of an agenda item (Athenry Developments) scheduled for a “Development Permit” Public Hearing on Monday November 29th, 2010. This had received 1st and 2nd reading, public hearing and 3rd reading (conditional approval) in June of 2008 prior to my election as Mayor. In doing my due diligence in preparation for the upcoming Public Hearing, I researched this project and its history, through a variety of Staff Reports. I was frankly shocked in finding the project that was proposed and given the appropriate readings, including Public Hearing bared no resemblance in my opinion to what was before us at Development Permit Stage and 4th and final reading. Changes can only be made after 3rd reading in Form, Character and Design. These changes in my opinion did not meet that standard!

The original June 2008 approved project was for one building located roughly in the center of the property while the 2010 version was for three, four story apartment buildings, a two story office building and a Cultural Center. This change impacted all surrounding private homes severely with a dramatically reduced set back, increased height of buildings and close imposition immediately next to surrounding homes. In my opinion and experience this was and is a travesty that happened to local hard working taxpayers. (NOTE – As I understand it, the affected residents had launched legal action but withdrew without giving up their right for taking action in the future.) Due to their position they have been denied access to speak directly to councilors (They must go through Township lawyers) about ongoing problems with the development that has so dramatically affected their quality of life and home values!

For any residents reading this and wondering what their reaction might be IF they were in the same position? I know of one resident who has sold their dream home in this development, it has cost them about $100,000. This has been verified by local real estate representatives. (A Full Post on this issue at a later date)

What is the problem, what is their game plan? – First there has been a long standing tradition of initiating what I call omnibus by-laws. (All in one process) While time saving for the developer, abuses the rights of the community. How does it work? Putting it in layman’s language – You purchase a home in a single family detached home community. You did so after checking into what the Community Plan was for that neighborhood as well as zoning. Along comes a developer who has consolidated enough land over time in your neighborhood to talk to the planning department and suggests a much higher density i.e. Condominiums, like Forewest as an example. These are changes that don’t fit either the current OCP or zoning for that area. Staff works with the developer over a period of time and comes back with two by-laws for council to consider – 1) changing the OCP to fit the proposal for much higher density and 2) another by-law to change the zoning. These would all to be dealt with at the same time.

Second, there are many residents in the Township of Langley who, because of the volume of new construction move into a new development. They are feeling good in that they have checked everything out satisfactorily with respect to zoning and OCP. It seems to be a habit for the Township, before one development is finished, will make changes to the OCP and zoning next door which boosts density. Unfortunately those changes happen before anyone in the area is aware as nobody or very few have moved in or not built yet.

  • What should happen? A process by which you introduce and process a by-law for the OCP change which includes two readings, a public hearing and then IF it receives favorable community response give it third and fourth reading. If the OCP change is passed then introduce the re-zoning by-law which features the same process as the OCP by-law and gives the community a second opportunity to speak to the proposal through all readings including a Public Hearing.

Conclusion – I believe the actions over the best part of the past decade of the Township of Langley Council reflects a concerted effort to adopt Community and Neighborhood plans with a reasonable density; and then over time introduce developer driven amendments to the OCP / Neighborhood Plans and zoning through what I call omnibus by-laws to increase density. Official Community Plans have to be seen by staff as more than just a best guess or early vision of the community. I have heard that come from the mouths of planners and frankly it is shocking. The fiduciary responsibility of staff and council must be to the residents of the Township of Langley. Not the wishes of developers! You have to ask yourself WHY?

RG

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Over the next week I will run a very interesting guest editorial on B.C. Rail and following that we will start dealing with the atrocity of Landfill Farming in the Township of Langley. Both will be very interesting reads.

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

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Comments
  1. Wally Martin says:

    I have made a few presentations to council over the years as well as input to staff.
    One gets the distinct feeling they are not listening. The best thing to do with input is reach out to the public .
    That can be done by letter to the editor or a visible presence on the street such as a protest.
    To be treated with distain try and talk to mayor and council or staff and you will get the feeling really quick.
    Eg. Over a year ago I asked to see a copy of the audited financial statements of Tourism Langley. I am still waiting. On the other hand when I asked to see the appraisal for the LEC a copy was anonymously delivered to the letter slot of my house. A definite “Who done it?”

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