Family feud, Langley style

Once upon a time, Langley Township and Langley City were one municipality.

Once upon a time, Langley Township and Langley City were one municipality. In fact, Langley is one of the oldest municipalities in the province. B.C. joined confederation in 1871 and the Township of Langley(including what is now the City of Langley) was incorporated only two years later in 1873.

So what happened? Warren Sommer in his book Nothing Without Effort, A History of Langley, provides an excellent account of how the split came about. The story reads like your basic family feud between the country cousins and the city cousins. Grumbling between the two branches of the family over a lack of services in the growing community of Langley Prairie (now Langley City) started as early as 1922 and carried on into the 30s, but the war intervened, and family squabbles were put aside while the country mobilized to face a bigger threat.

When that threat ended the squabbling resumed. Langley Prairie was still anxious to acquire urban amenities such as water, sewer and street lights, but the farmers of the Township were still stubbornly unwilling to help pay for them. To quote one of those farmers, “A bunch of those businessmen want streetlights, but want the farmers to pay for it.” By 1950 the two sides were deeply entrenched in their positions and patience was wearing thin. Acrimonious comments flew back and forth. Nonetheless it took another five years, a citizen’s petition, a special act of the Legislature, and intense lobbying on both sides, before the family was split in two. A referendum was held in 1955 and the City of Langley was born.

There may have been some justification for that initial split. It may have provided the City with the ability to address the issues of the day, but it didn’t come without a cost. There have been numerous instances where meeting the needs of the community as a whole have been complicated by having to deal with two separate municipal entities. One of the first problems involved delays in the building of Langley Hospital, and although the two communities have learned to work together, challenges continue to this day. Ironically, the last time I spoke with Doris Blair she commented on her husband Bill’s promise as Mayor of Langley Township, to ensure there would be a streetlight at every intersection. I’ve been checking this out as I drive around and I do believe he kept his promise.

Along with the streetlights, many things have changed in Langley since 1955. Langley City is no longer the only urban centre and there are sewers, waterworks and streetlights throughout the Township of Langley. As is the case for most family feuds the original reasons for the fight have become irrelevant and forgotten, but the feud continues.

Both communities, Langley Township and Langley City, are great places to live and the differences between the two are important mainly to the politically minded. I doubt most people notice the difference between living on the north or south side of 44th Ave, or in patronizing stores in the Township side or City side of Willowbrook Shopping Centre, and golfers at Newlands aren’t likely to notice when they cross from City greens to Township greens.

Maybe it is time for the family to bury its differences and consider becoming one again. At the very least let’s have a look at what the advantages and disadvantages of re-unification might be. I expect there are advantages for both communities, but we don’t know. If we are to have a meaningful debate on this issue we need objective information. This sentiment is shared by almost 7,000 residents of the City and Township of Langley who signed a petition asking for an independent study to look at the advantages and disadvantages of re-unifying the family. The Township of Langley has voted to support such a study. The City has dismissed the request from over 3,000 of its citizens to do the same thing.

Isn’t it time for the country cousins and the city cousins to start talking to each other about ending this particular family feud?

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