Editorial — Lawyering up over land dispute

Metro Vancouver and Langley Township are at loggerheads over university district, and it will cost taxpayers plenty.

Taxpayers are the losers as Langley Township and Metro Vancouver do battle in a lawsuit over the Township’s plans to create a university district near Trinity Western University.

Two levels of government have “lawyered up” and are spending money at a furious pace to try and prove who is right. Taxpayers are on the hook to fund both these organizations.

While the Township does have a good point in saying that it believes land use decisions should be solely within its purview, the council majority’s intransigent attitude on the university district is a key reason that this dispute has escalated into a full-blown legal battle.

Metro Vancouver, which has very limited planning and land use powers, does have the abilty to set down a regional growth strategy which designates which areas should be considered for urban and which should remain rural.

In the case of the university district, the Township chose to insert two very different areas with differing land uses within the district, which is meant to allow for expansion of Trinity Western University over the coming decades.

As noted in this space on previous occasions, land to the northwest of TWU has already been taken out of the Agricultural Land Reserve. It is logical that this land, which is hilly and has limited agricultural possibilities (other than pasture) could be used for university expansion or related services.

On the other hand, the Wall farm subdivision, to the southeast of the university, is located in the midst of a flat, arable farm, which is within the ALR. Putting 65 homes in the midst of the farm is simply a bad land use decision — the type the Metro Vancouver guidelines try to prevent.

It has no physical access to TWU — unless residents of the subdivision plan to walk to class along the railway tracks (a very dangerous option).  Yet the Township has said the suites within these homes could potentially be rented by students.

The Wall farm is separated from TWU by the busy rail line and the Salmon River. A subdivision there  sets a terrible precedent and will lead to other farmers lobbying for urban uses on portions of their farms,  where there are no urban services.

Local governments should decide on land use, but Metro Vancouver is well within its rights to try and prevent such a project from proceeding.

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