Budget 2020 special Council meetings continued early on Monday morning with plenty of disagreement and politicking, but I’ll leave that for it’s own review. Mayor Jack Froese was also not in attendance, as expected, so the meetings were chaired again by acting Mayor Margaret Kunst.
Afternoon Meeting: Presentation of WARCAP Deferred
The afternoon session of council was mainly “in camera” through the majority of the afternoon, which led to a deferral of the presentation on the Willoughby Arterial Road Completion Amenity Policy that some of us were looking forward to.
The afternoon meeting did cover a few items, including a motion brought forward by Councillor Kim Richter regarding the secondary suite size bylaw that would be discussed later in the evening session. She requested that staff include a recommended secondary suite size as part of the 2020 Housing Needs Assessment due later this year. She indicated she was okay with the 90 sq.m. (969 sq.ft.) being recommended by staff in the interim, but Councillor Eric Woodward did debate, again, that this lacked any rationale and was picking a number out of a hat. Additionally, Ramin Seifi did confirm that the Assessment, by its nature, was not really a policy recommendation report, but it would inform an updated Housing Action Plan (which is something I had also been told a couple weeks ago by a Township staffer).
The motion to include a recommendation in the 2020 Housing Needs Assessment, regardless, was approved unanimously.
Janda Group Presents: Aldergrove Town Centre
The feature new development at the evening meeting of Council was the long awaited Aldergrove Town Centre development at 3100 272nd Avenue. There have been plenty of opportunity for sneak peeks leading up to Monday’s first and second reading, but this is the first real official step that shows the developer is ready to move forward.
Councillor Richter acknowledged the level of public excitement about the project and inquired to staff about what a realistic timeline would be from first and second reading to groundbreaking and finally to sales, etc. Ramin Seifi responded that it is very difficult to say, considering the number of variables and how responsive the developer will be to the conditions placed. He stated an average application process is 12-18 months, but there has been a lot of work done already on this prior to first and second reading. He stated that final adoption is achievable a matter of 2-3 months. As far as proceeding to market, he said normally developers start with this after third reading.
Councillor Petrina Arnason expressed desire for more details on the 4 storey public parkade that will be on the lower levels of one of the buildings within the application. She was not aware of any of the details about how the parkade would be managed. While she understands that what is proposed is a Township purchase of the “air-rights”, but questioned that details of managment, upkeep, total cost and whether it would be pay parking or not.
The proposal includes the provision for a “community parking structure” in Building D, in accordance with the objectives of sections 3.2.19, 3.2.23, and 3.2.24 of the ACP.
The structure is currently designed as a 4 level above-grade structure with approximately 188 stalls, and 6 levels of residential development above. If approved and funded by council, the community structure would benefit all of downtown
Aldergrove by providing central, shared commercial parking, which could reduce the requirement for individual properties to provide as much on-site parking. The location of the potential community parking structure corresponds with the future pedestrian connection from the lane to Fraser Highway.
Should the community parking structure be approved and funded by council, it is envisioned that it will become a separate airspace parcel. As such, the floor area of the structure has not been included in the FSR for the project. Should the community parkade not receive support, Building D will be reconfigured and will likely shift into phase 2 of the development.
-Colin A. Hogan, Architect AIBC, Principal (FOCUS Architecture)
Councillor Blair Whitmarsh echoed similar sentiments to Arnason’s inquiry:
“It feels to me like if the Township’s going to be paying for those that parkade it would seem to make sense that we would do our own assessment if that’s what we think is important or necessary…”
-Councillor Blair Whitmarsh
In response to a further question from Councillor Whitmarsh, Ramin Seifi also clarified that the building that is currently being proposed as part parkade would be delayed to a future phase and would likely not be the same as what is proposed (ie. possibly no parkade at all).
Whitmarsh also had a good question regarding the bike lanes provided in the contract, asking if there would be a seperation to protect bicyclists from traffic. Staff responded that there would be a designated lane, but no physical barrier for the bike lanes. Whitmarsh stated he has some concerns, but is in favour of the application going to the public for feedback.
Councillor Eric Woodward was happy to see the application before council and, by way of a procedural question to CAO Mark Bakken, indicated he may have some sort of memo to Council regarding some funding options which he would like discussed.
Woodward also referenced the Aldergrove Core Plan and brought up the plan requirement to undertake a parking strategy and the included centralized parking structure and asked if the proponent had submitted anything in relation to the rationale for the parking structure. Seifi responded there had been some limited information provided and would distribute it council at Councillor Woodward’s request.
“The structure that I see is somebody pretty committed to fulfilling some key components of the Aldergrove Core Plan – one of the only proponents I know of with enough real estate to even potentially do that as integrated as part of the development versus what White Rock has done which is purchase a lot, put a brick of concrete on top of it in the middle of their walkable district. This is an opportunity to fulfill a key component of the Aldergrove Core Plan… with no land cost to the taxpayer, potentially with a funding source that was magically arranged about 6 months ago.”
-Councillor Eric Woodward
Councillor Woodward continued on to quote the Aldergrove Core Plan which states,
“Encourage shared parking between projects where it can be justified and where it does not generate negative impacts…
Encourage shared parking facilities where parking demand varies over the course of day for different activities and land uses.
Promote alternatives to surface parking, such as a central, shared structure for non-residential parking, or car co-ops.
Consider central parking structures, where proven feasible and appropriate, at sites:
that can accommodate a ground-floor commercial frontage if located on a commercial street,
-that are strategically located,
-that are near significant trip generators (e.g. the proposed civic/recreational facility)
-that are compatible with adjacent existing or planned residential uses (to avoid detrimental lighting and traffic impacts),
-where resulting traffic patterns will not negatively impact pedestrian and cycling networks,
-that can be redeveloped in the future if parking needs decline, and
-where “green” elements can be accommodated.”
-Aldergrove Core Plan, Sections 3.2.19, 3.2.20, 3.2.22, 3.2.23, 3.2.24
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Monday night without a Woodward soundbite:
“We’re going to find out whether the Aldergrove Core Plan is worth the paper its printed on.”
-Councillor Eric Woodward
Councillor Woodward also brought up a point of clarification regarding the parkade building after he disclosed he had spoken to the proponent the previous week. Upon asking if the parkade was rejected, would Building D be delayed, he was told by the developer, verbally, that the delay would only be as long as it would take to resubmit an application without the parkade. Woodward wished to have this provided to council in writing.
First and second reading passed unanimously. The Public Hearing will be February 10, 2020.
DCC Update Rejected by Province
The proposed significant changes to the Development Cost Charges Bylaw were rejected by the province due to the inclusion of several major projects in the DCC program. The rationale was that the Township does not fully own the infrastructure and therefore such projects do not qualify for funding under the DCC program. This ruling was obviously a surprise to staff. These projects include $47.6m worth of work:
- Reservoir – Phase 2 Jericho
- 200 St Rail Overpass
- 232 St. Interchange
- 264 St. Interchange
Although we are committed to these projects, staff was forced to remove them from the Bylaw to have the remainder adopted. The previously announced DCC increases were decreased slightly to represent the removal of almost $50 million worth of infrastructure projects.
Councillor Richter asked staff if there was some sort of appeal process, to which the response was that there may be some informal avenues. Councillor Woodward wondered out loud how the provincial government expected Langley to pay for our contribution without access to the DCC fund. Councillor Steve Ferguson asked staff if this had ever happened in the past, and the answer was that this is the first instance we have come across. Ferguson pointed out that Council and staff do the best they can based on precedence, but when something changes without warning, it is unfair to the municipality (and the taxpayers).
Interestingly enough, Councillor Woodward came up with probably one of the sharpest, and most understated, ideas of the term with a small amendment to the bylaw:
“Add $15 million to the miscellaneous road DCC account, increasing it from $10 million to $25 million to account for municipal land costs associated with the 212th Connector from 208th Street to the border of the Williams neighbourhood plan.”
-Councillor Eric Woodward
By doing this, for a road that doesn’t yet exist, it mitigates about half of lost of the DCC percentage that was a result of taking out the shared infrastructure.
Council supported the amendment unanimously and did the same with the amended motion.
Suite Sizes Get a Boost
Last year the provincial government removed the 90 sq.m. (968 sq.ft.) restriction for secondary suite sizes in the BC Building Code, paving the way for individual municipalities to set their own secondary suite size bylaws. Staff at the Township of Langley were committed to the status quo, but some of us in the real estate industry including myself, Joel Schacter, and Tim Sawatzky, strongly advocated for allowing more flexibility in suite sizes, particularly advantageous for downsizers and young families. And trust me, this doesn’t give any advantage to REALTORS: many of my clients choose to buy because of the lack of properly sized rental housing options. In fact, this leads me to think that maybe staff fear increasing suite size may lead to LESS strata sales in the Township?
Councillor Eric Woodward opened the discussion on Monday evening by asking, once again, for the original rationalization behind the original and supported 90 sq.m. limit. Mark Bakken stated that there was no supplemental information, meanwhile Seifi, who was proactively campaigning for the status quo, offered that the Canadian National Code (last updated 2010 and has no bearing on provincial law – Seifi left that out) has a limit of 80 sq.m.
“I’ve heard a lot on this one, from the people that I think know the real estate market better than I do, understanding some of the market demands are and really kind of wanted a rationale for why 90 meters… it would nice now for the status quo to come up with rationale, just like any reform-minded person has to come up with to change anything.”
-Councillor Eric Woodward
Woodward went on to ask why not 130 sq.m (1400 sq.ft) or 120 sq.m (1,292 sq.ft), which he heard people are more likely and more comfortable to live in and would not be putting any additional stress on local roads, parking, etc.
Councillor Woodward stated that he agrees we put in something instead of referring it back to staff, which would delay any bylaw, but as a transitional maximum, feels that there is no problem with allowing some larger sizes.
Councillor Bob Long provided the alternative opinion:
“If we’re going to muck around with numbers, I guess we’re picking numbers out of a hat… and if we are going to change it anyway based upon potentially the housing study shows us, then I don’t know if it’s wise to make a couple of changes… you’d be changing it 2 or 3 times… Now my wife and I live in 90 sq.m. and we’re pretty happy…”
-Councillor Bob Long
So it seemed like Councillor Long was taking the position of the status quo, but then considered why pick a number at all and instead allow individual proponents to provide a rationale for the secondary suite size. To which I was actually nodding my head in agreement:
“I don’t think you’re going to find that one size fits all”
-Councillor Bob Long
Councillor Long then reversed this position and then considered if we kept the 90 sq.m, couldn’t proponents apply for a variance, to which staff responded, yes, but with potentially significant delays in the application. Long understood this and instead looked for a solution with some sort of automated execution (which would essentially be the essentially the same as passing a bylaw with a larger size…).
Mark Bakken reminded council that although this may be considered an interim measure, that it would still be another 6-8 months before the Housing Needs Assessment will be complete (which would then be used to update the Housing Action Plan, as stated earlier in the day).
Long again fell back on the alleged concerns for parking and needs for more services.
Councillor Blair Whitmarsh appreciated knowing the timeline for the assessment and the desire for larger spaces but wasn’t in favour of “just picking a number” and end up with conflicting numbers if the size is changed again, and expressed favouring the 90 sq.m of the previous Code.
Bakken interjected and asked Seifi to explain the timeline again, to which the latter outlined that the Housing Needs Assessment should be in front of council by the end of summer or early Fall, but that this report was not intended to provide specific recommendations, and was originally intended to identify gaps. It was intended to be, and still is, to be followed up with an action plan, which would follow next year.
Councillor Kim Richter offered that she could live with 1,200 sq.ft., wasn’t prepared for anything over that but would support an amendment by Councillor Woodward if he wanted to bump it up to 120 sq.m (1,291 sq.ft.). At this, he made the motion.
“I’m always amazed that people claim to support private property rights, but find ways to restrict them… I view this as a simple basic private property right issue that unless you can demonstrate some harm that’s being done with a larger secondary suite I don’t see the problem.
As far as just picking a number, just picking 90 is just picking a number – there is no rationale for 90 other than that’s what we’ve always had…
…it doesn’t increase the size of the structure – you have a box that you’re allowed to build and you make a little bit slightly small distribution to a secondary suite inside that box to make more people want to live in secondary suites…
… if we are restricting the size of secondary suites, why aren’t we restricting the size of apartments? I don’t see much of a difference between an apartment and a secondary suite, yet no one is proposing that we restrict the size of apartments…
…you can build a seven bedroom apartment and your [parking] requirements for that is 1.5 stalls.”
-Councillor Eric Woodward
While Councillor Long continued to belabour the idea that distributing square footage within a home would somehow change the service demand, I myself remain confused how one can logically think that adding 300 sq.ft. will increase parking or utility demand while ignoring the fact that this is also subtracting 300 sq.ft. from the livable space of the primary resident. If it were true that adding space increases service demand, wouldn’t it be true that decreasing space decreases it?
Councillor Steve Ferguson urged council to move on with it:
“It all makes sense, I don’t know why there’s been a lot of discussion on this but it’s time to move and time to vote.”
-Councillor Steve Ferguson
And time to vote it was, with the amendment to increase the size to 120 square meter passing with only Councillor Long opposed. The amended motion also passed, this time unanimously.