Michelle Sparrow is running for mayor of Langley Township. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Michelle Sparrow is running for mayor of Langley Township. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

MEET THE CANDIDATES

IN THE LANGLEY TOWNSHIP MAYORALTY RACE: Michelle Sparrow

Ahead of Oct. 15, the Advance Times offers a profile and Q&A opportunity to each candidate

Michelle Sparrow

RUNNING AS AN INDEPENDENT

Government relations lead, age 42

Willoughby resident who’s lived in Langley 42 years

I am a single mother of four daughters, living in the Yorkson area of Willoughby.

I was born and raised here, and have been grateful to have raised my daughters here, as well.

I am the government relations lead and conduct advisor for the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board.

My journey in Langley politics began when I was first elected almost 11 years ago. I have held two terms as councillor (seven years) and this will be my fourth election.

Previously to my current career, I was a realtor, as well as a small business owner here in the Township of Langley.

I believe who’s at the table makes a difference to the outcome, but the outcome affects who will be sitting at the table.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/VoteSparrow

Twitter: @michellesparrow

Website: VoteSparrow.ca

Phone: 778-994-8936

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Have you held office in past? If so, please specify: Two terms as ToL Councillor

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CLICK TO CHECK OUT OUR FULL ELECTION GUIDE ONLINE

Questions:

(These answers are presented as the candidates submitted them)

1. Should the Township set targets for the creation of more low-income and seniors rental spaces, social housing units, and/or co-op development to improve home security?

Yes. Affordable housing options are desperately needed in our community. Both market and non-market. We also have a role to play in regard to the rental crisis we are facing as a region. There are measures local governments can put in place to help encourage a more robust rental market in order to assist those living in our community who by choice or by circumstance are in the rental market. We should be utilizing the new legislative powers in place which allow rental zoning to be used where rental units are not merely encouraged but are required. We can put in place measures to ensure new housing developments have an adequate component of affordable housing requirements, using the 30% formula (costs are 30% or less of an area’s monthly median household income or at least 30% below market rent in that area ((whichever is lower in a given community)) to ensure developers incorporate housing opportunities for all, not just the most wealthy. These should be done in a way that is inclusive and provides a seamless transition between fair market housing and affordable housing.

2. Should the Township create a performing arts venue within the next council term?

Yes. As a mother to four daughters who were in competitive dance I can speak from experience and say that a performing art venue is desperately needed in our community. We must ensure we support the arts in our community just as we do our sports.

3. Does the Langley Township fire department need to be expanded in terms of crews, equipment, and/or halls?

Yes. As our community grows so do the calls for assistance, with the Township of Langley firefighters responding to almost 8,000 calls last year.

We are facing an alarming reality if we do not shift our thinking to more of a proactive stance.

Since the Township of Langley staffed four of its firehalls with full-time crews beginning in 2006, we have not had another firehall move to full-time status since 2010.

Our community has grown by approximately 40,000 additional people since that date, while seeing no progression from a strictly paid-on-call system to full-time career.

In addition, we have seen over the years also an increase in density including the addition of high-rise structures. The increase of density requires not only the necessary staffing to address the added call volume, but specialized training is also required.

This is something that we can no longer put off. We need to ensure our members are up on the latest and most advanced training.

The Township of Langley consists of 88 career suppression firefighters. Eighteen full-time firefighters are on duty at any one time, covering 316 square kilometres, 50,000 households, and 145,000 people.

4. Should property tax increases be restricted to the rate of inflation or lower?

No. While I can agree with using the rate of inflation as a guide, we cannot tie ourselves to a formula that does not allow for us to be reactive and responsive to the future needs that may occur. Even just looking at the climate emergencies we faced over the last few years it has shown the possibility of the unexpected needs that municipalities could face which requires the funds and abilities to react as needed.

5. Should the Township encourage greater housing density in new and existing neighbourhoods?

Yes. With the Township of Langley having 75% of our lands within the agricultural land reserve it only increases our need to be conscious of how we grow on the remaining lands left for urban development. We must ensure that we provide the housing required to support the needs our community, while also addressing the supply shortage that is only increasing the cost of housing. At the same time ensuring we are following the community planning we have in place which protects what makes Langley so special. The balance of urban and rural; our past and our future. Our urban areas will need to have the right kind of density in order to protect our agricultural lands from the pressure of urban development sprawl.

6. Should the Township do more to build and upgrade roads, sidewalks, and bike paths in fast-growing areas?

Yes. I would like to see us support the efforts to develop a network of cycle highways across the region. I see great value in the creation of these cycle highways, and I believe the protected routes that are paved, lit, direct will encourage a wide demographic and offer tremendous value and enhance the quality of life for our residents. As mayor I also want to facilitate discussions around road safety the kind that include real and proven new ways of thinking. Justifying biking investments, the benefits of curbside parking, building slow flow streets, the immense and undervalued use of street trees and lighting, our need for a community wide walkability study are all much needed conversations that need to occur when looking at our road infrastructure. It is not enough to just say we need to “fix it” or to talk about the mere completion of our road infrastructure that is still needing to occur, we need to think bigger… we need to think better.

7. Is the Township’s population growing too fast?

No. The Township of Langley, like many communities, is facing a housing affordability crisis and while the issue is complex there is in my opinion a definite role that municipal governments play in mitigating it. I believe the relationship between supply and demand plays an integral role in housing affordability. It is imperative that municipalities look at ways in which municipal governments can help ensure an adequate supply of new housing stock enters the market. New development applications should not and cannot take years for the completion of the application process. We need to take real action to ensure an adequate housing supply while also holding the line to ensure it is the right kind of supply for our community. I believe that developer site specific applications to amend the planning work which has taken place during our official community planning process; should be in the minority, not the norm. Too often we are seeing piecemeal changes to the community’s overall plan where piece by piece one day we may not even recognize the plans we once set out for our community. The municipal government’s role must be to focus on what is best for our community as a whole.

8. Should the Township consider switching to a municipal police force, instead of using the RCMP?

No. The costs for this has been compared and I believe the financial investment this would require would not benefit to the community.

9. Does the Township have enough parks and public spaces to meet the needs of its growing population?

No. The Township of Langley as it grows needs to look to ensure our public spaces and the social infrastructure of our community is supported. In 2016 while on council I put for a motion which directed staff to develop a Community Amenity Contribution policy which would see the funding from development of important infrastructure like recreation centres, libraries, parks and fire halls. The current council when presented with the policy chose not to fully utilize this policy and instead chose a more limited scope of what could be covered and paid for under CAC‘s. Creating funding mechanisms which don’t solely rely on tax increases or accumulating debt isn’t maybe as exciting as cutting ribbons but it’s the kind of important leadership that sets us up for sustainable and manageable growth. For far too long we’ve left money on the table for the kind of social infrastructure that makes communities great. I believe we need to address this immediately and do a better job of funding these important community amenities through measures other than property tax increases.

10. Should the Township commit to making a decision on proposed new developments within 12 months or less?

Yes, we need to make the commitment to ensure our staffing levels within all areas of our organization are sufficient and that we support the staff we have and provide them the tools they need in order to get the workflow done. We must look at modernising our system and move the process online, we must triage the applications that come in and delegate to staff the ability to approve minor permits. The province has provided local governments with new tools in order speed up the process as well as they are looking for even more legislative changes.

CLICK ON OUR ELECTIONS 2022 TAB TO FIND A WIDE VARIETY OF RELEVANT STORIES

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EDITOR’S NOTE:

How the questions were presented to each candidate

Langley Advance Times readers have repeatedly told us how much they value this important, straight-forward reference guide that helps orient them with the range of choices on the ballots – both at the council and school board levels.

Towards that end, we have attempted to make this package available (along with the following instructions) to each of the candidates in a timely fashion ahead of the Oct. 15 election.

Please read carefully before you start to fill this out.

To help voters in Langley make their choices on election day, the Langley Advance Times is asking local candidates 10 issue-based questions.

You must provide a ‘yes,’ a ‘no,’ or a ‘don’t know’ (Y, N, D) response to EACH of these questions.

Each question MUST be answered with yes (Y), no (N), or Don’t Know (D). This will be published in a grid in the Oct. 6 edition. Any questions not answered will be LEFT BLANK.

Candidates may also expand on ANY OR ALL of these questions (to a maximum of 200 words each). Please note any responses longer than that will be cut off at the 201-word mark.

Due to space limitations, we can only guarantee to run one of these answers in the Langley Advance Times print edition ahead of the election. You must CLEARLY indicate which expanded answer you want to see published in print. If you do not specify, we will choose. Any and all expanded answers provided will be published online at www.langleyadvancetimes.com.

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