Metro Vancouver has filed an appeal of a court ruling that said the Township of Langley has final say over development planning, not the regional authority.
Township mayor Jack Froese said it was an “unfortunate” decision.
“It’s disturbing that this much tax dollars are going into a squabble,” said Froese, who estimates the Township’s legal bills at $50,000 to date, with Metro spending more than double that amount.
“I’m very confident that they’re going to lose again,” Froese said.
“We can’t just lie down and let Metro Vancouver walk all over us,” he added.
Metro wants to overturn a written decision issued on March 12 by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Neena Sharma, who dismissed a Metro application to have the court overrule the Township decision to approve a “University District” on 376 acres at 7645 and 7679 Glover Rd., and 22423 Labonte Cres.
Within the three properties lying on the west side of Glover Road opposite the university, 23.4 acres was to be used by Trinity to develop a university district, while another 48 acres was to remain protected farmland within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Metro argued the municipality must abide by the new regional growth strategy while the Township contended a two-year transition period meant it was operating under the old regional plan – not the new one – and could legally make the land-use change.
Justice Sharma said the Metro regional growth strategy, which aims to limit urban sprawl, is only “guidelines expressing policy” not enforceable laws.
Metro, the judge said, “does not have superiority over land use management within the boundaries of a municipality.”
The decision was a victory for both the Township and the university, which wants to expand its campus by adding housing, a food store and coffee shop geared to the university community.
The judge also upheld the related Township decision to create a residential subdivision on the Wall farm, which is south of the campus and across the Salmon River and railway tracks.
Froese said the Township has legal advice that work on the developments can go ahead while the appeal process is underway.
“We were in the right [to approve the district],” Froese said.
“It’s the law of the land.”
Metro board chair Greg Moore said Metro believes the judge didn’t correctly interpret the regional district’s authority under the Local Government Act in deciding Metro’s powers don’t supercede a municipality’s decisions within its boundaries.
The ruling’s logic that a rezoning affecting only one municipality can’t be considered regionally significant makes no sense because no rezoning would ever qualify, Moore said.
“For us, this isn’t a Langley issue,” Moore said.
“This ruling is too important to the regional growth legislation. It has implications not just for Metro but for every other regional district that has a regional growth strategy.”
Moore said the issue is not the zoning changes the township wanted – creating a university district with campus housing and shops around Trinity Western University – but that the municipality believed it didn’t have to subject that change to a vote of the regional board, as set out in the regional growth strategy all Metro cities signed.
Metro’s growth strategy aims to concentrate urban-style growth in town centres and keep it out of farmland and rural areas.
– with files from Jeff Nagel