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Last week, I commented that Metro Vancouver provided some needed services to Langley Township, but added that Metro should not be involved in land use decisions.
The exact words were:”There is no way the mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby should be dictating land use policy in the Fraser Valley.”
No, I did not have any advance knowledge of the dispute between the Township and Metro that broke into the open on Wednesday, and is likely to end up in court, at great cost to taxpayers.
I was simply stating what seems obvious. Mayors and councillors in communities which are quite different do not have the local knowledge nor the responsibility that is needed to make proper land use decisions. The other reason they should not do so is that they are not accountable.
Langley Township residents do not have a vote in the Vancouver and Burnaby elections, and likewise Burnaby residents can’t vote here.
The whole issue of regional meddling in land use decision goes back 30 or 40 years. Where it really got ugly was in Delta, when Metro’s predecessor the Greater Vancouver Regional District denied a rezoning application for the Spetifore lands in Tsawwassen — one the local council supported.
That decision had a lot to do with the GVRD losing its planning powers, but they were later partially restored — wrongly, I believe. It doesn’t seem right that unaccountable politicians who are playing to their base (their own voters) can decide on critical projects elsewhere.
In the case of the current dispute, Langley Township council is backing a university district near Trinity Western University. Trinity has long owned about 60 acres across Glover Road from its present campus.
About one-third of it has now been removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve, with a commitment by Trinity to keep the rest within the ALR. The land itself is not the best agricultural land in Langley — it is hilly and likely best suited for pasture more than anything else.
Trinity itself is built on what was once the Seal Kap dairy farm. However, its roots go back to 1962 — more than 10 years before the ALR was introduced. Thus it is an existing, longstanding land use. It is a significant economic contributor to the community and region and needs to have an opportunity to expand, if that meets with approval of the Land Commission, which has the final say over agricultural lands within the reserve.
The Township took all of this into consideration when council made its decision about the university district, the ALR exclusion and Trinity’s expansion plans. Council is well aware of the local conditions, and it seems to me that this proposal will not harm the ALR, nor will it mean that prime agicultural land will be lost forever.
Metro Vancouver should drop its plans to sue the Township over this matter. It will cost lots of money and serve no purpose. If it persists, this may lead the provincial government into taking powers away from Metro — or it may push the Township out the Metro door.
Given that Rich Coleman is paying attention to this issue, either could happen.