Langley City is at a crossroads.
Under Mayor Peter Fassbender’s leadership, both council and staff have been energized. The City has developed a Downtown Master Plan, and is following it. Developers are coming to the City in healthy numbers, attracted by an “open for business” attitude and a quick turnaround of their projects, when applications are submitted to city hall.
The proof is in projects like the Serenade, adjacent to Douglas Park; The Muse on Fraser Highway; Paddington at Fraser Highway and 201A Street and Varsity on the Park, on the old Langley Prairie school site.
A 15-storey luxury apartment complex is proposed for the site of a nightclub on Industrial Avenue and 203 Street.
There has also been a healthy amount of commercial development, particularly on Langley Bypass. Preston GM has done a major renovation; a luxury auto mall is well underway and redevelopment at 200 Street and Langley Bypass will see a Cactus Club restaurant coming to Langley City.
However, Fassbender is leaving. He has been elected as a Liberal MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood and is now minister of education. He says it himself — “I can’t do both jobs.”
Former Township councillor Mel Kositsky is ready to run in the byelection, which will likely be in September — unless Langley City council manages to forestall it, which is doubtful. He brings an impressive resume from 18 years on council, extensive work with provincial and national municipal bodies, a deep connection to Langley through both work and charitable activities and a good understanding of how all of Langley — City and Township — ticks.
His opponents in the byelection will undoubtedly claim he’s a Township interloper. He answers that by referring to a long list of City organizations he has worked with over the years.
It is possible that as many as two members of council will also resign to contest the byelection. One will almost certainly run. If that happens, there will be a mini-general election in Langley City, with at least one councillor’s seat also open.
Thus far no member of City council has stated they are interested in running for mayor in a byelection, but backroom positioning is underway.
It is vitally important that the next mayor follow through on the long-term vision of the City which has been enunciated in the master plan and other documents. Langley City has tremendous potential, and that potential lies in higher densities, better transit, a vibrant commercial area, arts and entertainment enhancements and an ability to respond quickly and decisively to social needs as they arise.
The City also needs to continue punching above its weight regionally as well. Fassbender has been an outspoken advocate for better transit south of the Fraser; for long-term transportation planning and fairness in tolling. That type of regional thinking helped him get elected as a Surrey MLA.
The City needs a strong leader to replace him.