Mayors Work to Woo Developers at UDI Event

By Mike Harrison, Land & Investment Sales, Frontline Real Estate Services Ltd.

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This year’s Mayor’s panel and municipal expo took place at the Langley Events Centre on October 13th. Organised by the Urban Development Institute’s Fraser Valley sector, the event hosted the usual suspects:

Mayor Henry Braun, City of Abbotsford
Mayor Ted Schaffer, City of Langley
Mayor Jack Froese, Township of Langley
Mayor Sharon Gaetz, City of Chilliwack
Mayor Randy Hawes, District of Mission
Councillor Bruce Hayne, City of Surrey
Mayor John Becker, City of Pitt Meadows
Mayor Nicole Read, City of Maple Ridge

Moderated by the always entertaining, Michael Geller, questions explored Community Amenity Contributions (CACs), inventory of employment lands and development application approval times at each of the mayor’s respective municipalities.

How is your municipality going about financing growth and are you charging CACs?

Mayor Braun of Abbotsford noted that they do not currently have a CAC but having just adopted an updated OCP the next step is to develop neighbourhood plans which will identify required amenities and how to fund them. This could very well include a CAC but Braun specifically pointed out their plan is to ensure that there is clarity around which specific amenity a contributor will be paying into.

Mayor Froese explained that the Township of Langley (TOL) is currently reviewing its CAC policy making reference to items like greenway fees in Willoughby and the new community amenity charge in Brookswood.

According to Mayor Gaetz, Chilliwack doesn’t believe in CACs. “We are working so hard to have affordable housing. Every extra dollar we charge developers gets passed on to the consumer.” Conversely, Chilliwack is even providing revitalization grants and incentives to attract development.

Mayor Hawes’ very simply explained that Mission charges CACs because “the new growth that comes to the community is causing us to build new infrastructure” but “we strongly believe that developers should know up front what all the costs are.”

Councillor Hayne of Surrey noted a couple specific CACs but focused his answer on stressing that they are working hard on the certainty. “We aim to have the developer fully understand what the charges are up front before they submit an application.”

Maple Ridge recently instituted a new CAC policy after working closely with UDI and the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association. The goal was to “make it easy and straight forward,” explained Mayor Read. Read also noted that they are considering a density bonusing option in Silver Valley and encouraging developers to propose higher density in Albion.

What is your perspective on your inventory of land for job making activities?

11 years ago Abbotsford worked with the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to release 450 acres of employment land but “in the last 3 years it has become apparent to us that we would run out in the near future,” explained Braun. The new OCP identified two new study areas – one east of Gloucester Estates and 350 acres north of the airport – which they will be “dealing with shortly” as they only have 225 acres left from the original exclusion.

Froese was excited to announce that the Township of Langley recently reached its goal to have one job for each resident. On top of the growing agri-business sector. Froese also noted the employment lands coming in the new Williams neighbourhood plan (click here to see our update on the Williams plan) and the undeveloped land in the Carvolth neighbourhood at the south side of the 200 Street interchange.

Mayors Gaetz, Hawes and Read all made note of how it feels far more thought could have been put into where the ALC drew the ALR boundaries. They will both be working diligently with the ALC to unlock more employment land. Mayor Read went on to explain that Maple Ridge is actively working on opening up nearly 400 acres of employment lands and exploring relationships with first nations to open up some significant land just east of Albion.

Mayor Becker explained that while Pitt Meadow’s growth is very mild they do have a lot of commuters and are focusing on creating local jobs with projects such as the new 4,000,000 square foot business park in the south.

Councillor Hayne shared his pride in the City of Surrey’s economic development team and the city’s fortune of having a relatively strong supply of undeveloped industrial land. “Campbell Heights East will add to the industrial land base,” once the master plan is complete for the area.

How long does it take to get an application through the approval process?

This is always an interesting question. It’s obvious the mayors know the application process is a challenge and very few would dare estimate a lead time on approvals. They focused, rather, on the improvements they’re making internally and the challenges they face.

Braun made mention of Abbotsford’s recently instituted Development Inquiry Meetings and Development Application Review Team (DART). DART is a team of senior department leaders who review nearly every application each week to discuss them together. These two elements streamline the process and shorten the timeline in the long run.

Mayor Schaffer was quick to highlight the City of Langley’s incredible speed in processing Christian Chia’s automall application in only 13 days. According to Schaffer, a rezoning should only take a couple months.

Councillor Hayne noted the City of Surrey’s technological improvements which are helping streamline the process, as well as their success with the one-stop-shop front counter in the new City Hall which has received very positive feedback from the development community.

For many mayors, it’s a challenge with the time it takes to accommodate the demand for community engagement.

Jack Froese was proud to point out that The Township of Langley was acknowledged by the Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association as the #1 great place for home building. This study includes applications efficiency. “It’s nice to be the fastest turtle in the pond.”


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