Bite-Sized Musings 

For when you only have a minute.

Canada's Largest Film Studio: An Economic Blessing and a Planning Curse
16/06/2021

There can be absolutely no doubt about it: when the Martini family builds Canada's largest film studio in the Williams neighbourhood in the coming years, it will be an economic boon for our community. While the actors and crews on all the shows won't necessarily live anywhere close to Williams, they will spend money in the local shops, and for the residents who will call the neighbourhood home and those working at the studio, we need to ensure the community is built-out properly. 

The Williams Neighbourhood Plan was designed to be auto-oriented, further compounding 60+ years of planning mistakes. Two simple ways that the Township could rectify this mistake as the site is developed is to ensure that the street front along 80th Avenue is activated with shops and businesses the entire way along, as well as reducing the parking minimums for the portions of the site that aren't industrial in nature. Once the neighbourhood is built out, there will undoubtedly be better transit access, both travelling East-West and North-South. As a result, this site doesn't require nearly as much parking as the plan calls for (there are plenty of examples of how parking minimums are grossly overestimated) countless, and the Township could reduce parking minimums so that such a massive portion of the site doesn't have to be a parking lot, leaving more space to build warehouses, commercial units, or studio space. It could provide greater density in the commercial areas, greater height for the hotel, or provide greater residential density on other properties the group owns and will look to develop. There are many options at the Township's disposal to have a better planning outcome that would complement the fantastic economic outcome. 

Some might ask why I am suggesting something that would look like we're biting the hand that feeds us. I would counter that we are not doing that at all: rather, we are offering reasonable compromises that would enable everyone to achieve a better outcome. I don't want the Martini's to take their film studio anywhere else, but I also don't want residents living on the Southside of 80th Avenue to be staring at the side of an industrial building for the next 100 years. I also don't want the streetscape in a neighbourhood that's supposed to be walkable and sustainable to be completely inactive, and where there could be a row of shops, or even a small park, which would be a benefit to the neighbourhood at very little inconvenience to the developer. 

 

Now, the unfortunate part of this story is that it is exceedingly unlikely that Staff or Council will look to make any meaningful changes to the Neighbourhood Plan or the application (when it is submitted), especially the changes I've mentioned above. This Council will likely see the prospect of having Canada's largest film studio located in our Township as reason enough to approve any application without attempting any compromises that would result in double the benefits in the long-term. That's an extremely unfortunate fact, but one we're going to likely have to live with, and those are my musings for today. 

216-business-park-langley.jpg

The "216 Business Park" as marketed by Form Real Estate Advisors in 2019.

Protecting Langley's Waters on World Ocean's Day
08/06/2021

Today (June 8th) is World Oceans Day. Our planet’s oceans are life-sustaining ecosystems that need careful stewardship if they are to continue to be healthy as the world’s population continues to grow and its resources continue to be used. Community development plays a huge role in ensuring the oceans are protected, and this is especially true in a community like Langley, which has over 700 creeks, rivers, and streams, which all play a role in the greater marine ecosystem we all depend on. We saw the lowest abundance of Pacific salmon in four decades last year, and with creeks and streams and rivers all serving as spawning grounds as well as habitat for an abundance of creatures, we need to do a better job of protecting and enhancing these watercourses. 

 

On the other hand, we need to accept that generally speaking, developers are building to make money. There are some that put a lot of value in how their developments contribute to the neighbourhood they’re in, as well as how their projects fit into the bigger community picture. It’s unrealistic to expect developers who have land next to watercourses to be altruistic in how they approach watercourse protection, and as long as we depend on private developers for the majority of our housing, the right combination of incentives and disincentives could be used to better protect Langley’s waters. First and foremost, enhancement within setback space from watercourses needs to be strongly enforced and as much as possible, flexing setbacks should be avoided. In exchange for protecting trees and securing as large setbacks from watercourses as possible, developers should be able to move to a denser form of housing (single-family homes to townhomes, townhomes to apartments, etc.). This would enable actual clustering of homes (which the Township supposedly supports, but does very little to encourage), resulting in a smaller total building footprint, protecting more of the natural environment.