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Langley Township and Metro Vancouver in midst of a land use confrontation
A confrontation between Langley Township and Metro Vancouver is well underway, and where it will end is far from certain.
The two parties are embroiled in a lawsuit over the Township’s approval of the university district surrounding Trinity Western University. This goes against Metro’s regional growth strategy, and people like Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and Richmond Councillor Harold Steves are opposing the Township’s actions with what seems to be unbridled delight.
Much of this is political. Both Corrigan and Steves are NDP members, and Steves is the godfather of the Agricultural Land Reserve. As a backbencher in the Dave Barrett government, he pushed for the farmland freeze that has endured all these years. It went back to his background as a member of a pioneer Richmond farming family and his studies as a UBC agriculture student in the 1950s.
Corrigan is a political pugilist, who loves to do battle with anyone who isn’t on his side. He rules Burnaby with an iron fist, with all members of council under his thumb. In the last municipal election, he even interfered directly in the board of education election, and to no one’s surprise, that body is 100 per cent controlled by his NDP civic farm team as well.
However, he knows very little about Langley and certainly has no in-depth knowledge of the land use issues that the Metro regional planning committee, which he chairs, have dealt with.
The planning committee and the Metro board turned down three requests from Langley Township to adjust the urban containment boundary. One of them involved a property at 44 Avenue and 216 Street, where a proposal to create 21 lots on land now in the ALR has been endorsed by the Agricultural Land Commission.
Another was a similar adjustment involving eight hectares within the ALR at 52 Avenue and 220 Street. The third involved the Forest Green Mobile home park, just north of 200 Street and Highway 1. The Township wanted the land designated as general urban instead of its current industrial mixed use designation.
Steves claimed that industrial land must be protected in just the same way that agricultural land is. Funny, I haven’t heard of an Industrial Land Reseve, but maybe if he had his way there would be one.
This would come after the City of Vancouver has converted much of its industrial land to residential use. While such has not been the case in Burnaby to the same degree, residential uses are starting to creep into industrial areas, particularly near Brentwood and just east of Metrotown along the SkyTrain line.
Should Langley Township council start to protest land uses in Vancouver and Burnaby with the same vigor used to fight proposed land uses here? Councillors may feel like doing so, and thus far haven’t issued a peep about any of these rejections by Metro Vancouver.
The lawsuit over the university district may be what they pin their hopes on. If Metro Vancouver’s power to designate or restrict lands across the region for various uses is trimmed back or eliminated by the courts, the Township will have a free hand to designate lands as council sees fit.
There are still more chapters to be written in this tale.