More than two dozen candidates for Langley Township council took questions on development, crime, homelessness, and taxes Monday night at an all-candidates event at the LEC.
Organized by the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce and the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, the meeting had a new format that saw councillors take questions in three groups of eight to 10 each. There are 28 candidates running, and almost all turned up for the debate.
Many of the questions were centered around Langley’s status as one of the fastest-growing communities in B.C., including the first, which asked about the appropriate mix of home types for the Township.
Incumbent Petrina Arnason said the Township’s plans are somewhat dated and need an update.
“They don’t consider the environment, they don’t consider homelessness,” she said.
Scott Cameron noted the need for affordable housing, as he has friends who are leaving or can’t move back to Langley.
“They can’t find a place to live or rent,” he said.
Tim Baillie warned against development that takes over manufactured home parks.
“They’re an essential part of housing, especially for seniors,” he said.
The scope of the growth was up to 6,000 or 7,000 people a year, noted Micheal Chang.
“Each project has to come with input from the voters and the people,” he said.
A core review, protecting the tree canopy, and taking climate change into account was Rebecca Darnell’s answer.
“We’ve already got enough towers, I don’t think we need another one at this time,” she said.
On the speed of development and business permits, all candidates agree things move too slowly in the Township.
“Permits need to be faster,” said Stephen Dinesen, noting Calgary turns around permits in a few days.
Brit Gardner wants to see the process modernized and digitized, and with some decisions made by staff, rather than the council itself.
Alex Joehl, a former Libertarian candidate at the federal and provincial level, suggested a Japanese-style development system, but also noted that Langley City is much faster at issuing permits than the Township.
A.J. Cheema brought personal experience to bear, noting it took him two and a half years to get a permit for his business from the Township.
On widening 208th Street in Willoughby, there was broad agreement that something needs to be done.
“We need five votes [on council] to get it fixed,” said Steve Ferguson, who is running with Eric Woodward’s Contract with Langley slate.
Sukhman Gill, running with Rich Coleman’s Elevate Langley, said the same thing – and that they also need five councillors elected.
The cost of widening the whole road was set at $60 to $80 million, noted incumbent Margaret Kunst, and said she thought it was not appropriate to borrow that much money to fix the problem.
Fixing 208th has to go along with finishing off connecting up 202nd Street, 204th, and 76th Avenue, said Michael Pratt.
Asked about expanding industrial lands into the ALR, all the candidates drew a firm line.
“I 100 per cent don’t support moving into ALR lands,” said Carey Poitras.
Karen Moraes agreed, saying there is lots of other property available.
“We need more density, and we need the services there,” said Kam Respondek.
On policing, VPD officer Barb Martens said deployment is an issue for the Langley RCMP.
“They are operating with over 20 vacancies,” she noted.
With many new councillors coming – at least four of eight council seats will have new occupants – candidates were asked about why their voice is one Langley needs.
“New voices are good,” said incumbent Kim Richter. “We also need to have a sense of organizational history, or institutional history.”
Carlos Suarez Rubio said he wanted to bring hope.
“Politics is possible with integrity,” he said.
Meanwhile, Navin Takhar said the current council was inefficient and fragmented, and said there are “simple solutions” to many problems.
On climate change, Theresa Townsley said she’s a farmer and a beekeeper.
“We see this every day on our farm,” she said, speaking of the need for the Township to have a financial cushion against climate change.
Sustainable building, solar power, and protecting the tree canopy were important, said Gerald Wartak.
A holistic approach to energy, including solar, and upgrading the Township’s vehicle fleet with EVs, was part of the answer, said Tony Ward.
New rules committing Langley to building energy efficient homes in the future was a key, as well as upgrading municipal buildings, said Misty Van Popta.
A video of the full debate will be posted on the website of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce this week, said chamber CEO Cory Redekop.
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