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Resident questions Township film permit process

In 2016, there were more than 1,000 film days in the Township of Langley for 136 different productions
A Langley family is asking Township council for help after being denied permits to shoot movies at their property.

A Langley family is asking Township council for help after being denied permits to shoot movies at their rural property.

Steve Sach, along with Joerg and Silke Schuetz, told council on March 6 that their 47-acre property, located at 558 248 St., has been “constantly denied” permits and applications, yet their neighbour at 839 248 St. has been approved for many.

Sach, who is also a professional location manager in the film industry, believes that a “90-day cooling off period” — a Township guideline that limits over-filming of areas — and complaints from a neighbour have contributed to the rejections.

“I can understand how that (the Township guidelines) work very efficiently when you’re around a lot of residential areas, but when you’re around a big tract of land of 40 acres or more and everything is contained on the property, how can we constantly be denied filming permits without an opportunity to have revenue come to our property, like everybody else is?” Sach asked council.

Not only does it cost his family lost income, Sach says it costs film productions money as well. Scouting locations is time consuming and expensive, and thousands of dollars can be lost when locations have to be changed due to permit issues.

“As a location manager, I can spend on a location anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000 in a day trying to create a scene for the show that I am working on,” he said.

“When you have a location locked, you’ve got to make it work. When (we) make a call to put an application in with the Township and they say, ‘Sorry we’re not giving the permit to that house’ … in one phone call we just lost $30,000.”

According to a Township memo, in 2016, there were more than 1,000 film days in the Township for 136 different productions, and each year, the industry invests $35 million into the local economy.

Sach’s property had one production of eight days in 2014 and one production of four days in 2016. Two separate productions were denied in August and November of 2016.

His neighbour, by contrast, had two productions over nine film days in 2014, five productions for a total of 20 film days in 2015, seven productions for a total of 25.5 film days in 2016 and one production on one film day so far in 2017. From 2014 to 2016 there were eight applications rejected.

To add another layer of difficulty, Sach’s property is also located in the Agricultural Land Reserve.

In October 2016, the Agricultural Land Commission released a new policy that classifies filming on ALR land as “events,” meaning there can be a maximum of 10 non-sequential days of filming on a property per year.

When asked his opinion on this policy, Sash said it “would kill the film industry in the Township of Langley.”

The Township was scheduled to meet with the ALC for clarification on this earlier in March.

At the end of the March 6 meeting, Coun. Kim Richter made a motion to refer Sach’s presentation to staff for follow-up.

“Filming generates $35 million dollars a year in our local economy, this is a very important industry for us and we should be fighting to get equal footing with other areas in the Lower Mainland in order to protect that type of industry, because it is clean industry with good paying jobs,” she said.