The Fort Langley Business Improvement Association (BIA)…. The plot thickens; is there one person control over what should be a democratic business association? It sure explains things!

Posted: June 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

You can’t make this stuff up…. Only in the Township of Langley! The over sized and previous B.C. Supreme Court decided illegal process and building (prior to friends on Municipal Council changing the law through the use of Spot Zoning) the Coulter Berry 2.0 building is only the tip of the iceberg to what is happening in our Municipality. As we are informed about icebergs only 1/7th of its size is visible above water, 6/7th is invisible, and so it is in the Township of Langley. Comfortably wired in as President of the BIA (no surprise) it appears on the surface Eric Woodward is now dictating his vision to the Township of Langley and this Council. Is Council tripping over themselves to fall into line? Don’t believe me? Check out the underground wiring project on Glover Road in Fort Langley and how, once again with the stroke of a pen by your elected Council, again it appears that Eric Woodward is dictating the use of your tax dollars and the dollars of many other businesses who don’t agree but are outvoted !!!! How is it possible? Read On….

The Business Improvement Association (BIA) – What is it?

Essentially, Business Improvement Areas were made possible under Provincial Legislation, affording a local municipality or city the opportunity to set up an area within their boundaries. A Business Improvement Area must be established through a Local Area Service bylaw (LAS). These, for lack of a better way to explain it, are local taxing authorities (a special property levy on commercial properties) governed by their members under the one member one vote principle of democracy and managed through their duly elected executive.

Fort Langley Business Improvement Association (BIA) –

Eric Woodward – President                   Owner of Coulter Berry plus numerous properties throughout Fort Langley.

Jim Dyck – Treasurer

Dixie Jacobsen – Vice President           Supporter of Coulter Berry

Blair Shpeley – Director

Brenda Alberts – Director                      Supporter of C B, Spouse of former Mayor Kurt Alberts Consultant to Woodward

Catherine Doyle – Director                    Supporter of Coulter Berry

Kevin Speilman – Director                     * Supporter and Contractor for Coulter Berry

(Note – Kevin Speilman was appointed by Eric Woodward at AGM after long time Director Casey Smith resigned. Rather than taking the next person on the ballot who didn’t get in the President appointed Kevin Speilman. Democracy, you be the judge?)

Permitted Initiatives of a BIA?

Under Provincial Legislation the intended use of these funds is for effective marketing, promotional and revitalization programs for the area in question.

Why underground wiring?

It is clear to anyone with an ounce of objectivity, reviewing the facts show that the current power lines would be unsightly from the top floor of the new Coulter Berry building. More important, the required transformer requires a 6 meter set-back which is an impediment to the building of the now infamous Coulter Berry 2.0 three story building. Proof of that was the approval of this project (underground wiring) two weeks prior to the green light on Coulter Berry.

The Heritage Society appealed to Council to find an alternate route down the lanes for the power lines so as to save trees, sidewalks, lamps and to minimize the hardship on business and costs to owners, many who are business owners but did not have a vote.

Is Underground wiring covered under this legislation?

In typical Township of Langley fashion they proceeded with a vote on a project that must be questioned as to whether it is permissible under the bylaw that was in effect at the time of their questionable vote. Once again it appears interesting to see the lengths that this Council and staff will go to manufacture a process to look after the needs of a friend? How else can you look at it?

In what has become typical for this Council and staff we see what is being described as a NEW housekeeping bylaw and policy changes introduced and read three times at the April 28th Council Meeting. I am sure most Councilors and our Mayor have not bothered to read through the bylaw (or maybe they have and they agree with it) so let’s help them out –

Section 5.18 Cost Recovery

Staff are not proposing changing the previous approved cost recovery mechanisms for the different types of requested work, but has conveniently added Utility Undergrounding to the LAS program because of recent requests. Staff is recommending that 100% of this service is to be paid for by the benefiting property owners.

Questions?

  1. By virtue of the fact they have identified and added Utility Undergrounding, they would have to agree that it (underground wiring) was not considered a part of revitalization under the previous bylaw under which the recent vote was conducted. So, why is a vote allowed on a project or initiative that was not covered, or once again do we allow staff to add or subtract at their or council’s pleasure? This Council has become known widely for inconsistent, unstable and self-serving governance decisions.  
  2. The use of the line in their recent report to council “Because of recent requests?” By whom and where, or is this another self-serving statement of convenience?
  3. In the staff report to Council 12-145 dated Oct. 15th, 2012 page 81 of 114 it is stated – “The Township contribution (taxpayer contribution), using the Local Improvement reserve accounts is estimated at approx. $1,013,000 in frontage costs for the three Township owned parcels, The Fort Langley Community Improvement Society (Fort Langley Community Hall) and ALL roads and laneways fronting the proposed works. This amount does not include an additional $50,000 estimated private property (building conversion) costs for the 4 properties referenced above with funding from existing capital budgets.” So to the question – All Township of Langley taxpayers are on the hook for $1,063,000 plus hook up costs (whatever that will be) despite being told by a staff report it is 100% funded by the benefitting area? Given the fact Eric Woodward owns at least 12 of these properties (if not more), we (us taxpayers) are subsidizing this initiative for his personal benefit? Not a bad deal if you can get it!  

Where has it gone wrong in Fort Langley? Where do we start?

I am quite sure everyone would agree with our generally held principle of one member one vote in our democracy. It must also be noted that that principle has held true when our Provincial Government (whether you agree or disagree) has as recently as this year rejected the often requested change by UBCM (Union of British Columbia Municipalities) and the Chambers of Commerce to permit business owners a municipal vote. This has continually been rejected based primarily on the rationale that in most cases it would provide many business / land owners with two votes. (business owners who also reside in that municipality). I believe we would also agree that our municipal government’s primary responsibility is to provide specific services we all need for a tax dollar we hope we can all afford. The LAS initiative of a BIA is no different; it is a tax initiative on, in this case, local business owners.

Well back to the case of BIAs in general and the Fort Langley BIA specifically. I am quite sure that legislators when preparing the responsible BIA legislation would have concluded the same principle of one member one vote given the potential tax or levy impact they could have on all members within a BIA area. I don’t believe the following would have been considered possible by Provincial Legislators. You think? Not within the Township of Langley you say?

Here are the inconvenient facts (At the time of the last vote) Has Eric Woodward purchased more properties since? –

  • 33 properties were affected by the “beautification”, 3 owned by the Township who abstained from voting. Of the remaining 30 votes –
  • 17 voted for it
  • 13 against it
  • BUT 12 of the 17 yes votes were Eric Woodward properties. In other words Eric Woodward was responsible for 40% of the available votes at the time!
  • One of the no voters approached Council to plead her case as her cost was to be over $80,000 plus a connection fee. Eric Woodward jumped to her rescue and paid her costs. It must be great when you have that financial clout, I am sure there are other business owners who could use that help, but I digress.

Well here are a few more inconvenient questions pertaining to the vote!

  • In a letter from Eric Woodward President of the Fort Langley BIA to one Roeland Zwag Township of Langley confirming the preliminary petition states “… subject to the Township of Langley providing substantial funding for lands other than its own, not expected to exceed 40% of the total cost.” The recent bylaw passed by the TOL states all costs are 100% the responsibility of the landowners. Given that the above statement of 40% is incorrect the preliminary petition is null and void!
  • The Fort Langley Community Improvement Society (Fort Langley Community Hall) voted to support the LAS but had its fee of $152,922.85 paid for by you the taxpayer and their property taxes are forgiven by the taxpayer. At best they should have abstained, this vote should not count, no different than the three Township owned properties.
  • The requirements for a successful yes vote under the old Municipal Act required the petition to be signed by 2/3rds of the property owners having a value of at least 50% 0f all parcels. Under the new Community Charter it has been changed to 50% of all land owners with a value of 50% of the assessed value of land. So folks, here is where it is at, once Eric Woodward’s new building is up, regardless of him purchasing anymore properties with the NEW assessed value he can write his own ticket, and all of the local business owners (taxpayers) get to pay – Are you happy yet?
  • Put it another way – One developer and President of the BIA can basically push this through when those opposed / abstained will be paying 56% of the costs!

What are the potential ramifications of this kind of control?

It doesn’t take a genius to realize (something that I am sure was never considered as an issue) the potential for cost sharing for projects of convenience for one Eric Woodward. So work with me for a moment. Eric Woodward, with his new found purchased voting clout, and we understand more to come, can now implement projects of his fancy, all he needs is five friends within the BIA. With underground wiring firmly affixed to the NEW bylaw how many of his other buildings will be coming forward with replacement construction applications? Who will benefit from this now shared responsibility? Is it fair, not in my books? But it does fit well with the long standing culture that has been in place in the Township of Langley, a culture of benefits to a few paid for by many!

Conclusion –

I can only hope that exposing issues such as this we will wake up the majority of taxpayers in the Township as to what is being done to them without their knowledge. For those that would suggest that this doesn’t affect them, believe me it does, it will be on your tax bill one way or another BUT you will never see or notice it.

So consider these issues going into the next election:

  • Financial mismanagement of the Langley Events Center!
  • Out of control Willoughby growth!
  • No community in community planning!
  • Non-existent community listening!
  • Special favors for friends like Coulter Berry and Wall!
  • The Wall Townhouse development on ALR land against Metro RGS!
  • Buying a piece of property from Trinity at 80% over assessed value!
  • Outrageous attempts at ramming through a new OCP for Brookswood!
  • The Forewest Development in Willoughby!
  • The Athenry Development in Willoughby!
  • The Creekside Land Development in Aldergrove!
  • Plus it seems a bottomless pit of money (our tax dollars) used in lawsuits – Coulter Berry LOST, Jacob deRaadt LOST and Metro Vancouver ongoing and Under Appeal! Are there more legal challenges to come? Stay tuned!

RG

I am working on a few posts at present that I believe should be of significant concern and interest to residents of the Township of Langley.

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

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