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

If you haven’t read them yet, please read Part 1 and Part 2!

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

(2:00:27-2:06:11) Mayor Woodward (CwL) looked to get moving on three major projects that they campaigned on and described as “needed”, including a new indoor pool and community centre at the Yorkson Community Park, a new soccer campus within the currently undeveloped Smith neighbourhood of Willoughby, and a new “ice and dry floor” recreation facility at the Langley Events Centre. The motion proposed a pre-authorization for staff to spend $250,000 on “pre-project works” in the 2023 budget.

It’s no surprise to those who watched the 2022 election that this would not be a council restrained by finances and it was shown again through many motions, including this one. The first member of Council to speak to this Notice of Motion was Councillor Misty Van Popta who felt that $250,000 was too low and requested it to be bumped up by another $50,000, as she did not believe that the original amount would cover all three reports. “It’s better to overestimate than underestimate”, she argued. CAO Mark Bakken indicated that this would be for the balance of 2022 ahead of the 2023 budget, fully acknowledging likely more funds would be necessary. Van Popta’s motion to increase the budget to $300,000 was carried unanimously 8-0-1.

Councillor Margaret Kunst (Independent) requested clarification that these reports would provide fully costed budgets, including ongoing maintenance costs. Mayor Woodward and staff indicated that this is primarily a fact finding mission for site selection but it did seem that costs would be forthcoming in future reports.

Councillor Barb Martens (CwL) promoted the campaign and wanted to push staff harder, stating “I just wanted to say promises made, promises kept. This is exciting to see this in writing after our campaign, Contract with Langley campaigned strongly on these items. I’m wondering if we can expedite the process required for the report back from staff, how we can get this rolling.”

Council had already made several large top priorities for staff that they wanted to expedite earlier in the evening.

The main motion, as amended, was approved unanimously 8-0-1.

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

Image from Stop Langley 45 Facebook Group

(2:06:15-2:13:09) In a unique move, the Contract of Langley slate pre-empted a pending application prior to it coming for First and Second Reading, declaring that the controversial 45-Storey tower by Vesta Properties was “not in the best interests of the Township of Langley due to concerns about aditional traffic circulation and desnity at this location, overall ambiance of this community as already planned and the precedent set by a structure of such magnitude…”. Furthermore, they request that Vesta completes the community as was previously approved (a 6 storey building at that specific location).

This was a specific question asked of council candidates during the campaign by myself, as well as the Stop Langley 45 group, which led MOST candidates to emphatically reject the idea.

Speaking as the mover of the Notice of Motion, Councillor Van Popta referred to the anger towards what “appears to be a bait and switch” and that we are “infrastructurally not ready for that”.

Councillor Michael Pratt (Independent) expressed his support for the spirit of the motion, but had a concern with the wording, but he was assured by Mark Bakken that the language will cover the intent. He also expressed that while there is merit to say we don’t like the 45 storey tower due to the process it went through, “but the reality is that’s the corridor we’re going to have the greatest density and so I’d be careful or I’d be nervous if Council was setting a precedent to say we don’t support this level of density.” Mayor Woodward interrupted to say he agrees with this.

Councillor Tim Baillie (CwL) argued that “fire services in Langley don’t have the capacity to deal with high rises”. While he recognizes that we already have a 26 and 34 storey towers going up, he suggested that 45 “is another creature that will put more strain on the fire services”.

“I’m really glad to see this 45 storey get put into the garbage can.”

-Councillor Tim Baillie (CwL)

Mayor Eric Woodward spoke to Pratt’s earlier concerns, defending the specific motion, not wanting to deny all towers, but specifically just for this site due to the uniqueness of the neighbourhood and situation. Woodward went on to say that this was a “positive” thing that was “fair to the proponent, not to invest or spend anymore time, spending anymore money on this particular application… and fair to staff, not to be processing an application which council has considered…”.

Councillor Van Popta echoed the Mayor’s comments that this motion doesn’t have anything to say about her opinion on densification and is mostly about fairness and process.

The motion to reject the towers carried unanimously 8-0-1.

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

(2:13:10-2:16:49) Similar to the previous motion, this one was a pre-emptive strike against an upcoming application that had not yet come before Council. Unlike the Vesta tower, I hadn’t yet heard of this one. It was, in fact, a pretty bold attempt by Bucci Developments and the National Indigenous Affordable Housing Corp. (link may eventually be taken down) to transform 282 acres of ALR land into 8.15 million sq.ft. of buildable area with buildings up to 80 units acre. The application had been date April 11, 2022, so it was very likely to have come before council before the end of the year.

Councillor Rob Rindt (CwL) was technically the mover, but Mayor Woodward helped clarify that the Motion speaks for itself, so there was no further comment.

Councillor Margaret Kunst (Independent) thanked Councillor Rindt for bringing this forward and asked whether this was something that would normally come before council since she “hadn’t seen anything about Bucci doing this”. Bakken responded that it had not come before council, but had been “circulated”. Bakken indicated normally this would come before council, with significant staff time.

Mayor Eric Woodward commented that he sees this Motion similar to the previous [the 45 Tower], in being fair to the proponent and staff in saving them time on something they feel is contrary to the public opinion before the full report to council is completed.

Councillor Misty Van Popta (CwL) also mentioned that she was very happy to see this and she “had done an unreleased video during campaign season on this” and expressed that she “doesn’t necessarily support the conversion of ALR lands on principle.”

The Notice of Motion to halt this master plan community from going any further carried unanimously 8-0-1.

Council Seeks to Refine Tree Bylaw, Again

(2:16:50-2:24:05) Councillor Margaret Kunst (Independent) brought forward a Notice of Motion to have staff “review and bring forward… amendments to the Tree Protection Bylaw to… provide exemptions for dead or dying trees…”. Kunst’s motion appears to come from complaints by some south Langley residents who don’t like the “significant process and costs associated with removal of trees”.

Kunst argued that she is “all about tree protection and this is not about wanting to clearcut, but we do have residents in our community that are really struggling with some of the inflexibility of it and some of it is just due to safety. They could have a tree that falls down on their neighbours house… it’s terrifying when the winds come.” Kunst indicated she would actually like to add that council receive a presentation from staff to the motion.

Councillor Barb Martens (CwL) spoke saying that she would like to see the presentation, but with the addition of streamlining the process and reducing the bottlenecks, even “reforming the bylaw”.

Councillor Steve Ferguson (CwL) didn’t have a problem with receiving a presentation, but did not necessarily agree with the exemption of “dead or dying trees”, instead wanting to wait on the referral from staff before “picking apart the bylaw”.

Councillor Michael Pratt supported the statements by Martens and Ferguson, especially in regards to the “actual administration of the bylaw and where the challenges are right now because I know there are a lot of times that we talk about dead or dying trees or special exemptions that we could have caught if there were more actual administration or more outreach done initially.”

For the final time of the night, Mayor Woodward asked what the timeline would be from staff on a presentation, guessing that the bylaw was “nearer the top of the pile than the bottom… is there at least some way we can get the presentation done for council before the end of the year – is that reasonable?”

Bakken: “It’s going to be difficult, Your Worship, we can try for the 12th, but again we are just looking at the volume of materials but maybe with your assistance in terms of this being a bit of a topical ideas that current, we can try to elevate that…”

Councillor Kunst only rebutted that her primary concern would be that the seasonal winds are coming, so she hoped that maybe they could expedite the concerns of current complaints.

Woodward or Kunst made a motion for a referral for the presentation. On the referral, Van Popta explained that it did seem like the discussion was heading towards more of an administrative or staffing issue than a bylaw issue. The referral for a presentation on the tree protection bylaw, which seemed to be a bit of a back track from the intent of the original motion, was approved unanimously 8-0-1.

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