Potentially More Firefighters, an Election Sign Ban & a Moratorium in Salmon River (Part 2)

If you haven’t read it yet, please read the first part of the council review here: ‘Contract’ Pushes Multiple “Top” Priorities, Kunst & Pratt Display Difference on Votes, Richter a No-Show (Part 1).

Council to Consider Adding 40 Firefighters Over 4 Years to 2023-2027 Budgets

(1:27:30-1:46:45)Additional firefighters and fire halls were at the top of many campaigns in the past election, and Woodward’s Contract with Langley slate wasted no time in getting a motion to fulfill this promise. Although the local media made it sound like we’ve just hired 40 new firefighters with a misleading “Plan to hire 40 firefighters in four years approved by Langley Township council” headline, the actual motion was to have staff report back to council with options to add 40 career suppression firefighters between 2023-2027.

Although the motion was unanimously adopted 8-0-1 at the November 14 meeting, it did not go without some controversy. Later in the week, Councillor Kim Richter posted a letter from Fire Chief Stephen Gamble, which stated that he was resigning effective December 2, 2022, after 12 years. Richter furthermore expressed that the “disparaging comments” made at the November 14 meeting quite likely led to this resignation.

It would be assumed that the comments she took offence to were by Councillor Tim Baillie (CwL) who expressed a passionate opinion against the blended system of career and paid on call firefighters, stating that it results in “extreme danger to not only the population, but especially to the firefighters” and a “methodology of the past”. He made it quite known that the practices of paid on call firefighting was “inexcusable” – a word he used more than once. Baillie also mentioned that he “would definitely move up this… hiring a hell of a lot more firefighters quicker than I’m proposing here” but that he was also “recognizing the financial restraints”.

Mayor Woodward’s follow up comments primarily focused on fulfilling campaign promises, but also made a reference to a “10-10-10-10” specific hiring plan, which was a detail that wasn’t actually mentioned in the motion, but does shed light on the intent to hire 10 firefighters per year. He also instructed Councillor Baillie to speak regarding potential additional fire halls, which were referred to in the earlier CAC motion. Baillie made mention that even the 2006 Willoughby fire hall “cannot properly accommodate career firefighters” and that we need “to look at repositioning some halls…”. He did not elaborate on what either of these two statements actually meant. Baillie also argued that its a “very difficult situation for the public to understand that if the firefighters aren’t safe and can’t respond in a timely manner, then no one is safe.” Woodward concurred that he “couldn’t say it any better himself. No other council member made any comments.

Baillie’s comments on motion did not appear to take issue with past council’s or past budgets, but did seem to express dissatisfaction with the current leadership, so it is no surprised that Gamble either left on his own accord or was asked to resign.

Regardless of the political fallout and controversy over the Fire Chief’s resignation and Councillor Baillie’s opinion on Paid on Call, the Township of Langley desperately does need more firefighters, something which was advocated for quite strongly in the past by many candidates and residents, including myself.

‘Contract’ Looks to Ban Election Signs on Private Property

(1:46:45- 1:57:42) Another “Councillor Baillie” (CwL) motion on the table was to have staff look at how the Township of Langley can ban election signs on private property.

There is some recent history on this, as on November 1, 2021, Councillor Kim Richter attempted the very same motion. It was then defeated by Mayor Froese and Councillors Arnason, Davis, Long, Kunst and Whitmarsh. During that meeting, then-Councillor Woodward stated that he “has concerns with going this far” but agreed in principle with the motion. At the time he blamed one campaign (I think federal) for blatant abuse of bylaw infractions and regularly made reference to only “one group gets to have signs up”. Past Councillor Blair Whitmarsh at the time argued that banning signs was a disadvantage for new people to run for office.

Even before this, there was an earlier attempt to limit the number of signs, dating back to March 2, 2020 with a very different discussion. This is where I was very much in agreement with then-Councillor Woodward, who said that we should

“…really question whether or not council should be doing this at all. I feel a bit uncomfortable passing rules and bylaws governing elections as an incumbent that I potentially participate in. I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable watching that from the audience. I think it may be appropriate… that we may be consider a citizen based or third party distant process, if someone else administrates this… maybe a collection of retired, people like Bob Wilson for example, maybe impartial and not have it be a citizen group, for example, it might be half of them running for council, so I would prefer that we look at a group like 5 or 6 Bob Wilsons maybe come up with a bylaw…”

Then-Councillor Eric Woodward, Council Process Committee, March 2, 2020

At the time, I strongly agreed with this, as past Mayor Jack Froese pointed out that it worked well with the council remuneration policy. I still do. Unfortunately, this discussion got deferred and lost in the debate throughout 2021 and now again in 2022.

Without many independent voices on the new council, the discussion on the same topic just two years later was a fair bit different than the good ideas in 2020. Councillor Tim Baillie again opened with calling signs “ugly” and “environmentally, this an incredibly horrible thing” and said everyone has better things to do than picking up signs. He then made the comment that “the independent councillors should really like this because they are not able to muster the financial resources that a slate or a team is”, providing his opinion on the consequence of the inequality involved. He thinks it “will balance the playground”. He regarded political signs, assuming his as well, as “garbage on public property”.

Councillor Margaret Kunst (Independent), while understanding where Baillie was coming from in regards to some frustrations, rebutted that she was not in favour the motion because she believes that banning signs on public property greatly favours incumbents. Additionally, signs show that there is actually an election going on. She mentioned that the City of Langley, which has a much stricter election sign bylaw, had a greatly reduced election turnout in this past election. She also pointed out that with slates, they can have 10 signs on one private property vs 1 independent, so this motion isn’t really about fairness.

Councillor Misty Van Popta (CwL) didn’t disagree with Kunst, but also indicated she is interested in the report and comparison to other municipalities. She also expressed concern that not everyone is on social media. She made an amendment to the motion to ask that the report would clarify what other communities are doing and other possible restrictions on private property. The amendment passed 7-1-1 (Kunst opposed).

Mayor Woodward said he supports Councillor Baillie’s motion and did not seem to be as uncomfortable with passing rules governing future elections as he did when first elected. Woodward did, again, add that “only some campaigns get to have signs remain standing… and if only one or two campaigns get to have signs then let’s just move them all to private property.” Since I have many photos of dozens of candidates signs and I think most people see I’m not sure what this statement is in reference to (I also saw many illegally placed signs from most candidates and both slates, many of which were taken down by bylaw).

The motion, as amended, carried 7-1-1 with Councillor Kunst opposed.

Subdivisions within Salmon River Uploads Now Under Effective Moratorium as Council Considers Rural Community Plan Updates

(1:57:43-2:00:24) Mayor Woodward (CwL) also put forward another Notice of Motion to have staff refer back to council a report to review the Salmon River Uplands area within the context of the Rural Plan. The arguable more significant component of this Notice of Motion was the last paragraph:

“That Council considers any residential subdivision in the Salmon River Uplands area to be contrary to the public interest if subdivided under current minimum parcel sizes and before the Council addresses minimum parcel sizes in relation to the Review.”

Since there was no indication in which direction the majority slate-driven Council was going, and this is the same language used to halt two other applications in process, this essentially puts a moratorium on subdivision within the area. The primary target for this seems to be Infinity’s 42-lot subdivision (RZ100589) at the 23700 Block of 56th Avenue which they withdrew at the June 13, 2022 regular meeting of council after First and Second Reading of the application been deferred at the May 20, 2022 meeting. It would appear now that Council has indefinitely suspended this application through this motion.

Councillor Michael Pratt (Independent) had written about this area prior to the campaign season, questioning the wisdom of moving forward with building in this area, but his old website doesn’t seem to be active any longer. However, he was the only one to speak to the motion, expressing his approval, but also wondering how long this might take, considering the burden placed on staff this night alone. CAO Mark Bakken responded that sometime in the New Year was likely, but prior to this was possible.

The motion was unanimously adopted 8-0-1.


Part 3: ‘Contract’ Moves Ahead, 45-Storey Tower & Milner Density Trashed, & Tree Bylaw Update Review

✅ ‘Contract’ Moves Forward with Big Campaign Promises, $300k Pre-Approved for Analysis

✅ Council Throws Vesta’s Controversial 45-Storey Tower into “the Garbage”

✅ Bucci’s Attempt for Milner Urban Density on ALR Land Halted

✅ Council Seeks to Refine Tree Bylaw, Again

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