This past Monday’s afternoon and evening meetings were busy affairs and attendance was healthy despite Game 5 of the Raptors vs Warriors. For previous coverage see: Langley Township DCC’s require 75-90% increase to pay for growth.
Petitions Ignored, Soil Deposits pushed to ALC
Two different soil deposit applications were presented to council on Monday, including at least one that already failed, was re-considered, re-petitioned to the neighbourhood, and is now back on the table. Both applications (22384 64th Ave & 22260 26th Ave) were NOT recommended by staff to refer to the Agricultural Land Commission.
It’s important to note that council revised the policy on ALC referral policy in February.
The Policy revision included two significant changes; the balloted area was amended from 1.6km to 1.0km and the threshold of support was reduced from 80% to 67%.
Soil Deposit Application for Property at 22384 – 64 Avenue
Report 19-88 File ENG SO 1478
On the first application (Walia, 22384 64th Ave), the first time that the owners petitioned the community, they received only 47% support for their 1400 truck loads of soil to even out the property that they cleared of trees in order to… plant, I assume, Christmas trees. After lobbying the Council, the owners had the Towsnhip repetition the neighbourhood on the new thresholds and still came up short, at 58%.
Councillor Bob Long points out that even though it did not meet the threshold, that it was now a majority of neighbours were in favour (I do find it interesting that Councillor Bob Long often considers himself a champion of “process” and listening to staff, but this seems to be an exception for some reason).
Councillor Kim Richter rejected this, stating that despite reducing the threshold of support, the owner still haven’t met the level of support required by policy. She favoured supporting the policy at least for a year to gain a track record. She also pointed out that if you remove 8 acres of trees, of course you’re going to have drainage problems.
Councillor Steve Ferguson thought it would be best to send it to the ALC and listen to what they have to say. In agreement with Township CAO Mark Bakken, Ferguson also countered the primary objection by arguing that every application should be dealt with on its own merit.
Councillor Petrina Arnason agreed with Councillor Richter, wondering what the
relevance of having a policy, obviously created with some rationale, is if we just pass along the application to the ALC anyway. Arnason questioned the wisdom of creating a precedent of inviting anyone who fails the threshold to just ask us to keep sending applications to the ALC?
Councillor David Davis echoed Richter and Arnason in that he would not support sending the application to the ALC because it didn’t meet the threshold set by a policy they just adopted. He also questioned whether it is a good idea to bring in imported soil to grow trees that are native to the area.
Mayor Jack Froese agreed with Bakken and Ferguson in that the policy is just a guideline.
The motion to NOT refer to the ALC was defeated with Mayor Froese, Councillors Kunst, Whitmarsh, Ferguson, and Long opposed. The subsequent inverted motion to send the application to the ALC was passed with the reverse vote as Councillors Richter, Woodward, Arnason and Davis opposed.
Soil Deposit Application for Property at 22260 – 26 Avenue
Report 19-89 File ENG SO 1974
The second application (Zhi Yang Wu, 22260 26th Ave) is for 370 truckloads to level out the landscape to “ultimately improve pasture for cattle on the property”. The neighbourhood petition received 55% support, also under the 67% threshold in the new policy.
Councillor Long had more trouble with them as he considered this a real problem for the neighbours, suggesting a condition be made to build a ditch of some sort for drainage. Chief engineer Ramin Seifi responded it would be quite this simple. Staff did say that one of the options available is for staff to work with the applicant on the drainage issue, which is usually something that comes after this stage (that is, after the ALC approves the application). Upon Councillor Long’s inquiry to whether this could be referred to staff now, Mayor Froese (under guidance from Bakken) indicated that this probably wouldn’t be prudent as the ALC could deny the application despite drainage solutions.
Councillor Richter brought up an issue with problematic access to the property that was a concern of some local residents and offered an amendment to force the trucks to access the subject property off of 224th Street (not 26th Avenue – a half road). Councillor Davis struggled with figuring out where the trucks are actually going in, but was cut off by CAO Bakken, reminding Council that this application still hasn’t reached the ALC and the proponent had already indicated they are willing to use 224th Street. This amendment carried with Councillors Whitmarsh and Ferguson opposed.
Back on the original motion, Councillor Richter vocalized her opposition for the same reason as the the previous soil deposit application: the applicant did not meet the threshold for neighbourhood support, despite two petitions (on taxpayer’s dime) and its second petition actually had lower support (55% compared to 61%).
“I don’t understand why we are spending taxpayers dollars to run these petitions if we’re not going to live with the results of the petition.” – Councillor Kim Richter
Councillor Woodward was less forward with his opposition to the referral to the ALC, but no less succinct:
If the majority on council that is going to be… sending on applications, two maybe in this case in a few minutes here, that didn’t meet the threshold of the policy that we change the policy. – Councillor Eric Woodward
As suspected, the vote went the same way as the other soil deposit application referral to the Agricultural Land Commission:
Who said dirt can’t be exciting?