Upon returning from my vacation, I had the opportunity to meet with three Township Councillors over the past week: Bob Long, Petrina Arnason, and Blair Whitmarsh. Additionally, Councillor Woodward also took the time to answer my inquiry about his goals for 2019.
Councillor Bob Long
Councillor Long and I met at Book N Beans Used Bookery & Coffeehouse, which I’ve just discovered as my new favourite Aldergrove coffee house, to discuss his top priorities for 2019. Since we met after I wrote my article on the firehall, his support of saving the old Milsean building was his current immediate priority, reminding me that he was integral to saving the building the last time it was in danger of being torn down circa 1999.
One of Bob Long’s top priorities is to get downtown Aldergrove going. He says there has been a lot of great development around the area and now it is time to focus on what council can do to incentivize high density and commercial development in the downtown. He points to an upcoming high density project (which he expects a development permit coming from the builder very soon) as evidence of revitalization that will happen this term. He seemed to indicate that the developer in that case is making some adjustments based on early feedback – I personally look forward to this as a cornerstone of Aldergrove’s core plan.
For priorities outside of Aldergrove, he pointed mainly to the Brookswood NCP planning process as the big item of 2019. He would also like to continue involvement in zero waste strategies, although without a seat at the Metro table, he admits that his influence on this matter is limited.
Councillor Petrina Arnason
Councillor Arnason also took the time to meet with me this past week and we quickly got into a heavy discussion about environmental issues in the Township of Langley. Arnason articulated her desire to look at the big picture of tree stewardship in the municipality, especially in regards to managing a healthy tree canopy. This would also mean having more in depth studies on the unintended consequences of urban development. She would like to see us move away from policies and permits that leave “orphan trees” that cannot survive without their natural eco-system.
Councillor Arnason appeared to understand the challenges of balancing economic and environmental factors, especially through preferring to offer incentives to developers/landowners to protect and enhance their environment instead of penalize them when they don’t. Arnason is also looking forward to working on the region’s Climate Action Committee, stating that this is bigger than just the Township and all municipalities in the region need to work together.
Some other specific issues that Arnason would like some significant progress on for 2019 is a tangible mechanism for timeline-based council priorities, a good medium-sized library in Willoughby, and more collaborative efforts on 208th Street and other major arteries (72nd Avenue, 216th Street, etc). We finished our discussion with the challenges of affordable housing and a desire to review and revise the Housing Action Plan: the Councillor would like to look at zoning options that aren’t currently available and getting more creative with additional dwelling units in established communities like Walnut Grove (small homes, granny flats, etc.).
Councillor Blair Whitmarsh
Top priority for Councillor Whitmarsh in 2019 is moving forward with the concurrent Brookswood NCP’s. He doesn’t want to rush public consultation, but he definitely wants to see good progress going forward. He believes that while the plan was maybe not perfect, it was still a “very good plan” and would like to achieve a good community consensus in 2019.
Getting serious progress on a fine arts facility is also top of mind for Councillor Whitmarsh. This facility could have cultural centre, theatre, classroom, and library components. Whatever it is, he would like to see it get going. He brought up some specific ideas, such as adjustable seating in a theatre that would allow for a variety of uses.
Understanding that 208th Street was a lightning rod issue in the last election, he would like to see a strategy complete for accelerating the street. While he is definitely opposed to borrowing funds or increasing taxes, he is open to middle ground ideas to encourage landowners through DCC incentives or likewise to promote the project faster.
When asked about what he foresees as issues that will arise in 2019, he immediately said he believes that a Township-wide tree bylaw will for sure come up. Excusing the ALR as an exemption, he is not necessairly against such a bylaw, since he isn’t a fan of having a bylaw like this in just one area (ie. Brookswood). Whitmarsh also says he expects a lot of discussion around Fort Langley, including the Township development projects, parking requirements, trucks on Glover Road, pavement, lights, boarded up commercial spaces, etc.
Councillor Eric Woodward
The other newcomer to the Council table, Eric Woodward, echoed the sentiments of some other Councillors, looking forward to the council priority workshops at the end of the month. He reminded me that he was quite vocal during the campaign about his priorities and has already been pro-active in putting forward motions very early in the term. While he looks to collaborate with other council members, he will also be pushing hard on his agenda items.
One of Woodward’s motions that represent his priorities was a recent attempt to stimulate Aldergrove redevelopment through adjusting the parking requirements in the downtown core. While this led to discussion about parking issues elsewhere, Woodward’s focus continues to be on the changes needed to promote good development in the Aldergrove downtown.
Councillor Woodward was also was hoping for a more balanced approached to the Brookswood NCP consultation process as the public planning teams are getting organized. We can expect more on that this month. Other priorities that follow from the Woodward campaign include fighting for better development processes, fixing Willougby’s 208th Street, and getting other unfinished roads and sidewalks done without punishing taxpayers.