Editorial — Supreme Court upholds principle of accountability

A Supreme Court decision in favour of the Township of Langley, over its ability to rezone lands, is the correct one.

Justice Neena Sharma used some strong words in stating that it is up to locally-elected politicians to rezone land, and that Metro Vancouver’s regional growth strategy is “guidelines, not policy.”

She went further by stating that Metro Vancouver is not accountable to taxpayers for land use decisions, by virtue of the fact that it is not an elected body.

“The GVRD directors are not chosen by the voters, who have no real power at the ballot box to influence the composition of the board of directors,” she stated, in reaffirming the Township’s power and responsibility over land use.

Langley Township council chose to create a university district around Trinity Western University, which although located in an area which is primarily in the Agricultural Land Reserve, has existed as a post-secondary institution since 1962, long before the Agricultural Land Reserve was set up.

Metro Vancouver (legally known as the GVRD) should have no authority to stop this development on the basis of a regional growth strategy, which the judge notes is a  long-term guideline, not an absolute parcel-by-parcel zoning document.

The judge also allowed the Hendricks development of 21 lots along 44 Avenue at 216 Street to proceed. That development plan calls for a large parcel of land behind the lots to be upgraded for better agricultural use. She also allowed the development of 67 lots on the Wall farm, which is a problematic land use — but again, has been approved by Township council.

Those in Langley who disagree with one or more of these zoning decisions have the opportunity to not vote for incumbent members of council in November, and instead vote for alternate candidates. This is the proper approach to land use issues. That’s how the public can hold decision-makers accountable — something that cannot be done with Metro Vancouver’s board.

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