While November 7 gave us the typical song and dance inaugural meeting of the new council, the first working meeting of council, on November 14, was anything but typical. As expected, freshly elected Mayor Woodward and his Contract With Langley (CwL) slate literally reversed course on many priorities, applications, and bylaws, while independent Councillors with differing opinions were, for the most part, sidelined or, in one case, not present.
The sheer volume of agenda items would make one wonder if the meeting would go all night if it was the council of yesteryear, but with a majority following the Mayor’s lead, one item after another was passed with little discussion, much less opposition. Despite some significantly controversial items, most votes passed 8-0-1 unanimously (1 absentee Councillor, as Kim Richter was not present). There were a few 7-1-1 votes, but no 6-2-1 votes (at least that I recall). The reason that this is of note is that this math means that while independent Councillors Michael Pratt and Margaret Kunst were certainly willing to disagree with the CwL slate on a handful of items, they did not do so together.
I can’t begin to cover an in depth of analysis of each important item in this brief review of last Monday’s council meeting, since I could easily come up with 12 headline items worth of their own review each. This is also one reason for such a delayed review. However, I promise my readers two things: first, I will provide at least a very brief synopsis of the afternoon’s important votes and second, I will publish some deeper analysis of some of the most important items in some separate future articles, especially as some of these topics develop throughout the rest of 2022 and into 2023.
Councillor Pratt Clashes with ‘Contract’ on ‘Front-Loading’ Single Family Homes
While the first application for First & Second Reading sailed through, Pratt voiced his opposition to the typical front loading homes on several applications, including North Arc Properties subdivision at 198th Street and 76th Avenue (fFirst and Second Reading), 1330509 BC Ltd’s subdivision at 7106 204th Street (First and Second Reading), and the Brydon Projects Yorkson development at 20453 78th Avenue (Third Reading). Councillor Misty Van Popta (CwL) voiced some concerns with possible illegal ADU’s being created on these non-strata duplexes and rowhomes.
Councillor Pratt attempted to put a referral to staff to work with the proponent to eliminate the front loading homes, but he did not receive a seconder on his motion for further discussion. Despite not willing to second his motion for discussion, Van Popta & Woodward both appeared to agree with Pratt’s assessment but alluded that the application was too far along (Pratt later pointed out that Council was reconsidering three applications that were all passed third reading later in the night). All 3 applications passed with a 7-1-1 vote (Pratt Opposed, Richter Absent). Later on in the evening, there was a similar development up for public hearing, which I wrote in opposition to for the same reason as Pratt voiced in these three developments.
Amended Council Procedures Bylaws Limit Speaking Times, Lower Threshold to Suspend Rules & Orders
I’m not sure if this came originally from staff or was requested of staff by the Mayor, but a series of amendments to the Council Procedure Bylaws were adopted 8-0-1 with no discussion. These amendments include Council members now only allowed to speak for 5 minutes on each debated motion, instead of 10 minutes. Additionally, there was a change in the council voting threshold from 2/3rds majority to a simply majority for Council Motions for Third Reading, or Third Reading and Final Adoption at Statutory Public Hearings, for Additional Delegations, and for Temporary Suspensions of Rules and Orders of Council Procedure Bylaw. As this is an ongoing trend throughout BC societies and corporate governance, it is not a surprising change.
Woodward Reconsiders 3 Applications Previously Approved at Third Reading
Back in May and July of this year, there were 3 applications approved at Third Reading (as late as you can get before Final Reading), that Woodward took issue with and brought back for reconsideration. The first is the Conwest application to remove 6 properties from the ALR, as discussed in a previous article. Back in May, then-Councillor Woodward had attempted several times to refer this application back to staff for more appropriate Community Amenity Contributions. These attempts had all been voted down in split 4-5 decisions (Froese, Arnason, Kunst, Long, Whitmarsh opposed). However, with Woodward now in the Mayors seat, the approval at Third Reading was reconsidered. (01:06:45) Van Popta made the motion to work with the proponent for CAC’s more proportional to the value being created – this passed with a 7-1-1 vote (Kunst opposed).
(01:06:50-01:10:25) The other two were interesting to see reconsidered since Woodward had supported both Qualico Mitchell Williams LLP developments in the Williams NCP on July 25, 2022, but now was bringing it back to vote against it. Councillor Baillie made the motion to refer the first application back to staff since he said he says he had a bunch questions about roads and services, walkability, additional density. He stated the referral is because he is “new to the process” and wants it explained better. Mayor Woodward would assist Councillor Baillie in making an identical motion for the second application in what seemed, at least to myself, to be somewhat orchestrated. Both referrals passed with a 7-1-1 vote (Kunst opposed), suggesting most of council needed to hold up the development for some explanations.
Community Amenity Contributions to be Revisited
(1:10:25- 1:24:53) Mayor Woodward put forward an omnibus sort of motion that covers a wide range of their promises to be, apparently, all paid through a massive change to the Community Amenity Contributions Policy. This policy would need to address a new Climate Action Fund, an update to the Affordable Housing Reserve Fund, be proportional to the value being created, have a tiered structure based on communities, be competitive with the region, and pay for new indoor pool and community centre in Yorkson, a new soccer campus in the Smith NCP, a new ice arena at LEC, more urban parks, new fire halls in Willoughby and Brookswood, and revision to the Township-wide Greenway and/or Satellite RCMP detachment.
Mayor Woodward requested that a policy be drafted for council consideration no later than December 12, 2022, basically telling staff to drop everything else.
Councillor Pratt indicated that he supported the intent and just had a clarifying question, primarily around the Climate Action Fund, which he added a housekeeping amendment to add transportation infrastructure projects as one the items to be included in the new CAF. Pratt argued that transportation is “one of the biggest emitters or the biggest causes.. harm to our climate locally is our transportation network and how we get around”. There was no discussion on the amendment and it was approved with a 7-1-1 vote (Mayor Woodward opposed).
Councillor Margaret Kunst stated that “You might be shocked that I’m actually going to support this, coming to realize that if I don’t, and we don’t all support this, then the taxpayer will be on the hook a lot of these campaign promises, so obviously CACs are going to increase…”. Later on, she asked if the report would provide insight on the impact of future development in the Township of Langley as a consequence of a substantial change of policy. [Brad’s Notes: In 2020 and 2021, the Township of Langley issued approximately 3,000 building permits (including secondary suites), each year – 2022 is so far on par with this. These years show a decline from the 3,153-3,310 units in 2018 and 2019 and significantly lower than the 3,634-3,832 units from 2016-17; the Township of Langley has therefore been building 21.4% less units in 2021 than it did in 2016, which represents a loss of revenue for the Township]. Kunst specifically asked about whether or not the report would provide an assessment of what confidence that developers will have if Council moves forward and alluded to the reconsiderations that were approved earlier in the afternoon. Manager Ramin Seifi mentioned that assessing the implication could require more turnaround requested.
Mayor Woodward highlighted that the motion does aim to “ensure regional parity”, and reminded her that our rates are distinctly lower than those in the surrounding communities. However, he stopped short of admitting that is the reason that the Township of Langley does have a higher number of building permits than most of these communities.
Councillor Ferguson expressed some concern over the quickness of the the ambitious report, but Seifi said that “we will put everything else aside and try to accomplish this”. Seifi also stated that some conversations with stakeholders will not occur due to the timeline.
The amended motion was approved unanimously with a 8-0-1 vote.
No Discussion on 7 Major Policy Direction Changes, Including Disbandment of Willowbrook Planning Team
(1:24:53-1:27:30) Mayor Woodward’s second motion involved a host of significant policy directives which included:
- Complete the aforementioned CAC Policy
- Complete a review and update of neighbourhood plans in Willoughby
- Complete a consolidation of greenway amenity policies in the Willoughby OCP
- Complete the Booth, Rinn and Fernridge NCPs with reconsideration of urban form
- Complete an update to the Williams NCP with more density, mixed use development and urban parks
- Complete an update to the Smith NCP with economic viability in mind
- Immediately disband the Willowbrook Planning Team to provide for a “wider spectrum of public input”
There was no discussion from any member of council and it too carried unanimously with a 8-0-1 vote. [Brad’s Disclosure: I was a member of the Willowbrook Planning Team]
North Langley Water Issues To Be Addressed, Ferguson Warns Some Caution
(1:29:25-1:39:09) Councillors Misty Van Popta (CwL) and Michael Pratt (Independent) sponsored a motion to (a) decommission Fort Langley Well #2 and replace with Metro Vancouver water, (b) cease expansions to the aforementioned well, (c) outline the potential removal of the well and (d) prepare a Report to Council that would show the capital and operating savings to cease all water projects in the Township and replace, where possible, with Metro Vancouver water.
This was an issue that both Michael Pratt and the Contract with Langley slate campaigned on and it’s an obvious attempt to show the ability and willingness to collaborate (very) early in the term.
While Councillor Steve Ferguson (CwL) didn’t have any problems with items a, b, or c, he was, after reminding all other council members of their inexperience, trepidatious regarding the report to council. He did so to remind council that there are “a lot of steps that takes place prior to the delivery of water and that the Township of Langley has had a unique opportunity to have blended water.” After an anecdote about his own terrific Brookswood water, he admitted that he has heard there is a problem in Fort Langley. He warned that Metro Vancouver will be raising the water rates and there will be an implementation of DCCs for water at the regional level. Councillor Van Popta did respond to this, suggesting that its more of an investigation for future prospects.
Councillor Kunst did ask specifically about the differences in cost. Seifi was able to attain that the consumption costs are 6x to cost to purchase water from Metro Vancouver compared to extracting and treatment within the Township – he later corrected to say $0.72 compared to $0.12. This motion carried unanimously with another 8-0-1 vote.