Making the City of Langley more walkable and bike friendly, giving small apartment dwelling dogs a place to run around, allowing urban residents the opportunity to grow their own food and addressing the ongoing issue of abandoned and derelict properties were among the issues that Councillor Ted Schaffer hoped to address by introducing no fewer than seven motions at Langley City council’s July 22 meeting.
Schaffer’s series of motions included the improvement and expansion of the City’s walkway and trail system along the Nicomekl flood plain; bike paths connecting the flood plain trail to the City’s downtown area; providing incentives — such as free locks and/or helmets — to encourage more residents to ride bicycles; and the establishment of a community garden and an off-leash area for small dogs.
He asked that staff investigate adding more funding to the budget for maintenance of the downtown area and he suggested that they draft a stronger bylaw regarding boarded-up houses.
Speaking to the motion regarding abandoned properties, Councillor Teri James questioned Schaffer about the specific intention of the motion — whether it was to have the buildings torn down or to levy fines against the owners.
Schaffer replied that it is both.
He referred to a group of City residents who attended a meeting earlier this year to complain about the state of empty homes in their neighbourhood which have been purchased by a developer, but are not yet slated for demolition.
He noted that abandoned properties in the City are often left to deteriorate and the grass allowed to grow unchecked. They devalue neighbouring properties and create a fire hazard, Schaffer said.
He suggested that when an abandoned house catches fire, owners could be levied a “hefty” fine of as much as $10,000 in addition to paying the costs of fighting the blaze.
In response to Schaffer’s efforts to have improvements made to walking trails and connecting bike paths, Councillor Dave Hall indicated that both issues are addressed in the Master Parks and Environment Plan.
Hall, who chairs the Parks and Environment Advisory Committee, said that staff’s line has consistently been, “we’re addressing it in the parks master plan.”
“I support the improvements as a priority, but I believe we’re already there,” Hall said.
Schaffer pointed out that residents have already been waiting a year and a half to see proposed improvements undertaken.
“How long can people wait? Another year and a half? That’s three years. It would be nice to have something actually done.”
With respect to Schaffer’s request to have staff look into the development of a community garden on Michaud Crescent, behind the West Country Inn Hotel, other council members suggested that while it is a good idea, Schaffer should re-word the motion to be less specific about the location of such a garden.
Councillor Rosemary Wallace suggested he broaden it to include the entire City, which Schaffer agreed to do.
“Food security is an area that is important. It would be prudent to work with the neighbourhoods and not just leave it up to staff to decide,” said Wallace.
“I think neighbourhoods would buy into that.”
Schaffer’s motion to introduce an off-leash park for small dogs, around 201A Street and Michaud Crescent (the location of Linwood Park), was also deemed too specific.
Councillor Jack Arnold said he could think of a few sites around the City that would be appropriate.
Schaffer noted that the City had recently approved between 300 and 400 new condominium units in the immediate area of the park. Many of those will be occupied by seniors who don’t have the option to go to the large dog off-leash park at 206 Street and 44A Avenue.
Hall suggested Schaffer’s “pet project” should go in the queue with the others to be evaluated when council debates its next budget.
Hall said City residents have faced compounding tax increases over what are essentially cosmetic issues.
“At budget time, if we come up with additions, let’s have something that’s a subtraction.”
Schaffer said he is aware that several of the items he brought forth in his motions are addressed in the city’s long term master plans, but he felt they should be “brought to the forefront and given daylight.”
The motions stemmed from a Livable Cities conference that council attended in Portland, Ore. in June, where many of the issues facing the City were addressed.
With a six-week break until the next regularly scheduled meeting, Schaffer said he introduced the motions as a bundle because he hoped staff would have time to look into the issues and report back. Council reconvenes on Monday, Sept. 9.