Township of Langley Property Deals and land use applications….. Are you following the news? The STENCH from these issues is Palpable and rising…. Then there is Richter’s response….. And we shouldn’t worry about our Council? What can I say?

Posted: November 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

Writing a community BLOG on the Township of Langley is a challenge, there are more serious issues than there is time to prepare and write. Where is our local media? After reading a recent Frank Bucholtz editorial it is apparent that they (he) just don’t get it and are drinking the Township of Langley (establishment) bathwater, a real disservice to all of us! Thankfully we have The Province (Kent Spencer) and The Sun (Kelly Sinoski). The following is a recap of some major stories and issues affecting you the taxpayer in the Township of Langley.

Read on:

The Province / Tuesday October 15th 2013 – FRONT PAGE and Full Page 3

“Giving Money Away”

Township spent $2.7 million buying land that Trinity Western University had received for free. (Kent Spencer – The Province)

Thanks to Township of Langley resident and taxpayer Dennis Townsend, he has been steadfastly digging into the very questionable property transactions that surround Trinity Western University. He has been willing to stand up and be counted, using his own resources to uncover what can only be described as a travesty to Township of Langley Taxpayers – so much so that The Province reporter Kent Spencer ran with this story on their front page.

What is the issue? $2.7 million paid for a 20.5 hectare property with an assessed value of $1.5 million, 80% over it’s assessed value! So beyond this outrageous purchase by the Township of Langley, The Province lays out the following interesting and questionable elements of the story-

  • “May 14th, 2012, the 23 hectare property on Glover Rd. was owned by Hugh and Sharon Little. Hugh Little is a North Vancouver businessman who has served on Trinity’s board of governors and with Trinity’s charitable foundation.”
  • “The very next day, the land was subdivided into two sections. The larger 20.5 hectare parkland-zoned section was transferred by the Littles to Trinity Western University for just $1. and other good and valuable considerations.” What other good and valuable considerations? How would CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) view this transaction – a dramatic increase in value that IS NOT backed up by B.C. Assessment? Just asking?
  • The 2.5 hectare property, zoned-student-dormitory conveniently by the Township is retained by the Littles.
  • “Trinity then flipped the 20.5 hectare property to the Township for $2.7 million later the same day.” Assessed value $1.5 million.

So why a $2.7 million purchase price on land valued at $1.5 million? Why am I not surprised; there were three independent Appraisals. While Township Property Manager Scott Thompson and Bob Kuhn, Trinity President defend the sale and purchase price being based on an average of three appraisals, Trevor Brown of B.C. Assessment knew about this high valuation and insists he stands by their assessment as being accurate at $1.5 million. Where is the full copy of these Appraisals – they would make for interesting reading!

The Province / Friday October 18th, 2013 – 1/3rd page Page A6

Council not told land value: Richter (Kent Spencer – The Province)

In response to the first news story about this land (above), Councilor Kim Richter, an experienced (close to 15 year, 5 term Councilor) is quoted extensively in this feature with the following:

Councilor Kim Richter doesn’t believe council was told it was buying land for 80% over it’s assessed value in 2012.

  • What an amazing statement – A Councilor with her experience and years of service coming up with this. Ask the question Ms. Richter ask the question!!!! It is your fiduciary responsibility as an elected representative of the taxpayer to ensure we get value for money. Just maybe residents will stop being fooled by your fluffy meaningless questions followed up with no follow through and no answers in open council. They are and have been nothing but a smokescreen for years! It is amazing what you can find out when you challenge staff reports; when are you going to start, and mean it? How much damage has to be done to this community before members of council wake up and start doing the job they were elected to do?

“From my perspective it seems like quite a gap” said Richter.

  • Do you think Ms. Richter? 80% (or $1.2 million higher) equates to about a 1.5% tax increase. $1.2 million that is gone for good thanks to the incompetence of this council. A million here, a million there, pretty soon you are talking real money! Unconscionable!

Richter wasn’t aware that the costs of the Appraisal were shared with Trinity? It then becomes a serious issue of objectivity or perceived objectivity.

  • Obviously further proof of the incompetence of this council. Appraisals and the details behind them are not questioned. How convenient!

Richter says she will ask to see the full Appraisal documents?

  • Ms. Richter, will you release them to the public? Otherwise, given council’s actions to-date this action is absolutely meaningless!

“If this deal had not (already) been implemented, I definitely would have been asking for more information. Can we undo it? NO – Can we learn from it? YES – Would we do it again? Absolutely NOT.”

  • The old 20 / 20 hindsight routine? Ms. Richter, are you now speaking for other members of council when you say it won’t happen again? That would be an interesting meeting to sit in on!!! We could sell tickets to that meeting.

More interesting, has it happened before???

Some of us know the answer to that question don’t we!

Given what happened in this case there should be a Forensic Audit of all Real Estate transactions over the past 10 plus years. But who on Council will have the guts to raise that prospect!

 The Province / Wednesday October 23rd, 2013 – 2/3rd page – Page A6

B.C. Assessment won’t use sale price (Kent Spencer – The Province)

In a follow up news item dealing with the questionable Appraisal stated the following:

The valuation of the property lies at the heart of the controversy and on Tuesday, Trevor Brown, senior appraiser at B.C. Assessment expanded broadly on his reasons for believing the land was only worth $1.5 million.

He said the Township paid so much over the assessed value that the amount will not be used to determine future assessed values.

“We could not use that purchase price as market evidence for setting assessments” said Brown.

Through the course of the article he explains why this property is assessed the way it is through outlining a description of the property and by comparing six large agricultural parcels sold in Langley in 2012. When you have such professional opinion go public it definitely puts into question the management of our assets as well as the decisions that are being made in the taxpayer’s best interest.

Vancouver Sun – Metro Board rejects move to develop agricultural land

(Kelly Sinoski)

Then we move on to a series of three property applications to the Metro Vancouver Board.

ALR / Urban Edge Planning: Two of these applications dealt with edge planning between ALR land and Urban. The issue is, as I say, edge planning between Urban and ALR lands. This encroachment has become a frequent request of the Township of Langley by land owners who own these edge properties. If you follow this idea to it’s illogical conclusion there is no end to how far you go in edge planning and removing land out of the ALR. It breaches the RGS which the Township unanimously approved a short two years ago. Just recently there have been noises out of Victoria that the B.C. Liberal Government have included the ALR in their Core Review currently being carried out by Minister Bill Bennett. There is currently considerable angst that the ALR is in jeopardy!

NEW Revisited OCP – The next application was dealing with a change in the Township OCP dealing with changing the designation of an area next to Port Kells from mixed employment to general urban which was contrary to the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. Now let’s be clear, the Regional Growth Strategy is a product of Provincial Legislation going back to the 80s, it isn’t something a few Mayors dreamt up over a beer one night. The RGS was reviewed extensively for two and a half years (2009, 10 and11) by ALL member municipalities and ALL members of ALL Municipal and City Councils. It was adopted unanimously in later 2011. Seeing I was leading the Township approval process when I was the Mayor I can tell you for a fact, we held an extensive number of private and open meetings with Metro, including a public hearing, and we had a considerable number of objections which we went about resolving. In the closing days of that process I had asked Mark Bakken and Ramin Seifi directly in front of Council in an in-camera meeting if there were issues of concern and both said there were. Given that, we went back to Metro and resolved those issues in question. Given all of this we brought it to an open Council Meeting and unanimously supported the RGS.

NOTE: We established a number of special Study Areas for future discussion which would require a simple majority vote of the Metro Board for approval of any change. It was and is clear any other changes through the Regional Context Statement would require a 60% weighted vote to change.

IMPORTANT re NEW OCP – I find it very intriguing that in a municipality that takes up to two years to create a new neighborhood plan, this Council and staff revisited the TOL Official Community Plan (OCP) and adopted it in not much more than a five month process with by-law readings and public hearing held in the summer. I have a copy of the NEW OCP and the c ommuni9ty should be alarmed at the changes.

Conclusion? After all of this, within a short time, less than two years, in the middle of a Court Action between the Township of Langley and Metro Vancouver over the RGS this Council goes cap in hand asking for changes to something that was just extensively agree upon. In my view it has become a very unhealthy poisoned relationship with our Municipal Partners within the region, all to be laid at the feet of Mayor Jack Froese and this Council.

And Now we get an Editorial from Frank Bucholtz Editor of the Langley Times

“Township and Metro in midst of land use confrontation”!

Unfortunately BUT in typical Mr. Bucholtz fashion he is defending the Township at all costs. He goes on by blaming the disputes on being nothing but political, dragging out a bunch of irrelevant issues, gossip and innuendo (where have I heard this stuff before) about Derek Corrigan and Burnaby Politics, then about Harold Steves being the godfather of the Agricultural Land Reserve and both of them being NDP members. So what, lets deal with the uncomfortable facts Frank!

Now it won’t take any of you 5 seconds to discover my politics are staunchly right wing and Free Enterprise. My argument against Bucholtz and the local Langley Press is not left vs right it is about how one sided their stories are and how unchallenging they are to sitting local politicians, Municipal, Provincial and Federal. So if Frank Bucholtz wants to complain about Metro argue THE FACTS, don’t offer a bunch of hyperbole. If you are complaining about Metro’s RGS have a little courage and go up against your Provincial friends Frank, or is that just a little too uncomfortable?

There are more than enough facts to argue how and why the Township is at fault on a wide variety of property deals, where is that in print? Where are the uncomfortable facts in print?

Now, we have just witnessed a very interesting B.C. Supreme Court decision on the Coulter Berry building in Fort Langley – are you going to come out and blast Council for the process they created that has been found to be improper and thrown out? Why don’t you ask the Township for their legal costs associated with defending themselves against this community based action? Now, what will add insult to injury to the citizens of the Township is if this Council Appeals the decision?

Something to really think about – Next time you receive the local paper in your mail box, (Times / Advance and Star) tally up the advertising pages from the Township of Langley, City of Langley, Developers who are marketing developments in both the City and Township as well as their inserts and flyers – This is known as the lucrative economics of the local newspaper business. There is nothing wrong with this as long as the news is objective, independent and tells the full story (both sides)!

Conclusion:  What we have seen over the first two years of this Council’s mandate is one of deals for friends and insiders, an increasing number of land deals / issues, constant conflict with Metro Vancouver and not one positive achievement.

I won’t count the just announced Glen Valley Park, the credit for that clearly goes to those dedicated residents of the Township of Langley. Don’t forget, if it was up to this Council you would have seen ALL of that land sold off, there was no other option.

It is long past due that we get off this train wreck to nowhere and fight for changes to our Municipal Governance before it is too late.

RG

More interesting Township Features coming soon!

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

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Comments
  1. Just Me says:

    Corect above if Im wrong Rick, but as a simplified view isnt this (below) the game they are all playing together? And Ritcher is still acting all “Oh I didnt know?”

    ** We all know land is worth one value as Farmland-ALR
    **** but worth 5-6 times more if removed from the ALR.

    (A) TOL pays too much for Farmland (KNOWINGLY) probably based on what the land “could be worth”
    [A former BM of TWU gets money, TWU gets land for $1, & Taxpayers pay 80% too much for a farm?]

    (B) TWU then pushes for “Expansion” which they cant afford; but they can apply for ALR removal!!!
    [I think they can apply as University and maybe even as Church?]

    (C) The township & TWU BOTH include their land TOGETHER in this ALR request for University expansion.
    [Wait… I thought TWU was broke? Expansion? Why is TOL land included?]

    (D) They include Wall family (?campaign sponsor?) land into this fictional “University District”.
    [They say this is for University housing, AKA Condos…why is Wall land included??]

    Everyone was hoping the land will be removed from the ALR -> bingo-windfall profits.

    HOWEVER: Metrovancouver has ALR and Urban Containment boundaries which are there to protect farms, the environment, food security, and help groups like Metrovan and Transklink long term plan (ie assure there are no spot developments to service).

    SO METROVANCOUVER TOLD THE TOWNSHIP OF LANGLEY NO!

    This means TOL owns land they paid WAY too much for because it is (and should be) ALR still.
    And Ritcher is paddling backwards up turkey-poop creek with a paddl…again…just like when she acted all surpirsed that the new mayor didnt fight for a proper Mufford overpass…

    Now the Township of Langley wants to fight Metrovan in Court!?!? (COSTING taxpayers more!)
    * TOL want to fight Metrovancouver for some “divine” right to spot develop this farmland ????
    * At a HUGE cost to Langley and Metrovan taxpayers ????

    This council and mayor are so wrapped up in land deals with their various supporter-developers they dont even have time for the real issues like rising taxes and school-traffic safety…

  2. Mike says:

    If BC Assessments are not part of diligence in major land deals, most of council and some senior staff should be fired – NOW! Can we hold them liable for the money? Personally? Can criminal investigations be made?

    I call for a forensic audit on all Township of Langley land deals in the last 10 years; including LEC.

    OMG – Hey Kim, Can I pay part of my property tax this year and just say I didn’t know the assessment value?

    I own a house on the edge of farmland; the BC Assessment is about $900,000. Who do I contact at the Township to sell it for $1.5Million? Or do I need a special encoder ring and the password to the club??

    How is this even legal? IS it? Who will look into it?

    I would rather have Rob Ford run Langley…at least he could claim he was on crack when he wasted tax dollars.

    • Mike: There lies the problem. Incompetent decisions by our council that should be looked at through a forensic eye. The hardworking taxpayer is so busy in their daily lives they are not aware of what is happening nor in many cases could they believe that it is true – But guess what – IT IS! RG

  3. gadfly says:

    Do not forget that shady “ToL land deals” are part of various other problematic projects. Two come to mind:

    1. Athenry Gate. One parcel in the middle of the property was purchased by the ToL and sold to the developer.

    2. The Routley Elementary School Site Robbery. “Where will all the children go?” asked Menny Bains in a letter during the Public Hearing for RZ 100361 – obtained by way of an Access to Records Request.

    “How many others are there?”, is a very valid question.

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