Metro Vancouver officials say they hope to avoid a legal battle with the Township of Langley over its plans to develop a vast university district not allowed under Metro’s revamped Regional Growth Strategy.
The proposed 180-hectare rezoning just south of Highway 1 near Glover Road would turn farmland into an expansion of Trinity Western University, along with homes, stores and other amenities.
But Metro, which has already threatened legal action, says the plan to intensively develop outside the growth strategy’s urban containment boundary means the Township would have to table a new regional context statement and possibly also propose an amendment to the growth strategy – both of which would submit the plan to a vote of the Metro board.
The Township’s position is that it is not yet subject to the new growth strategy because of a two-year transition period and can develop the lands without Metro approval, since the rezoning already has conditional approval of the Agricultural Land Commission.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who chairs Metro’s regional planning committee, says the Township is wrong if it thinks there’s some sort of a void between the old growth strategy and the new one where it isn’t subject to the rules of either one.
“We say there is no gap,” he said. “They remain under the Livable Region Strategic Plan until they bring in a new context statement. We think that’s correct.”
Corrigan said he hopes Langley Township carefully considers its legal position before pressing on.
“Nobody wants to spend taxpayers’ money having a dispute between governments if we can avoid it,” he said.
Township Mayor Jack Froese said his municipality has more clearly defined what the university district would look like – one of Metro’s previous concerns – and is proceeding with consultations ahead of a public hearing.
“It is our jurisdiction to make land-use planning decisions in that area,” he said, adding Metro is free to challenge the Township if it wants.
“We don’t know what the fuss is all about,” Froese added. “We believe we’re following the rules.”
He also said he believes the backing of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for the rezoning, which includes Agricultural Land Reserve properties, trumps the authority of Metro.
“The lands in question are very marginal farmland if they’re farmland at all,” Froese said. “I believe Metro Vancouver has overstepped its bounds by contradicting what the ALC has already approved.”