Coun. Linda Annis of Surrey at the mayors panel at the UDI forum in Langley on Jan. 29. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Mayors facing explosive growth talk transit, roads in Fraser Valley

The Langley Urban Development Institute forum was held Wednesday

Fraser Valley mayors talked roads, density, and red tape at the Urban Development Institute’s panel discussion Wednesday at the Langley Events Centre.

Speaking for their communities were Mission’s Mayor Pam Alexis, Abbotsford’s Mayor Henry Braun, Chilliwack’s Mayor Ken Popove, Councillor Linda Annis from Surrey, Langley City Mayor Val van den Broek, and Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese.

Real estate analyst Don Campbell returned as moderator, and noted that since the issues were yet again the same, he would be re-using the same questions he lobbed at the panel in 2017 – about transit and transportation, the housing crisis, and development and growth in the region.

Campbell noted that the high cost of housing is still pushing people away from Vancouver out to the suburbs represented by the mayors and councillor at the table.

With those new arrivals come cars, and he asked what is being done for transportation.

“The highways are a bit of a gong show,” said Popove. He noted that with more people, getting around even in Chilliwack, long seen as a rural community, is becoming difficult.

A $15 million project by the city to update local infrastructure will help, but it won’t completely solve all local commuter issues, Popove noted.

Annis, who represents one of the fastest growing communities in B.C., said her community is trying to create more jobs, hitting a goal of one job per employable resident in 10 years. That provides alternatives for people leaving Surrey and commuting to other cities, Annis said.

“Campbell Heights is open for business,” Annis said, speaking of the industrial area in south east Surrey.

The 216th Street interchange is expected to be completed later this year in Langley Township, noted Froese.

“That’s going to be a game changer in Langley,” he said. “It [216th Street] was cut in the ’60s, when the highway went through.”

It will now become the fourth highway interchange and seventh highway overpass in Langley.

The subject of money from senior levels of government came up frequently during the discussion, as larger-scale projects such as SkyTrain to Langley, or widening the Trans Canada Highway east to Chilliwack, will require cash from Victoria or Ottawa.

Froese noted he and New Westminster’s Jonathan Coté will be going to Ottawa in February to lobby for the delivery of transportation funding, including that for the SkyTrain project.

Meanwhile, Abbotsford’s Braun still wants the provincial government to borrow $8 billion for a Fraser Valley light rail link.

Braun said the freeway also needs to be widened, saying truck traffic on the highway has increased 40 per cent in the last two years.

“It is costing our economy an enormous amount of money,” Braun said.

Getting cars off the highway is where commuter rail comes in, Braun said.

“My ask is only $1.9 billion,” joked Langley City’s van den Broek, noting that’s how much more money is needed to get SkyTrain to Langley.

Mission, like Surrey, is trying to create more jobs locally, because so many people commute out of the district each day.

“We have 70 per cent of Mission that leaves every day,” said Alexis. She noted that 30 per cent work in the trades, and couldn’t use transit if it was available, as they’re headed off to various work sites, taking tools and gear.

Density and development linked to transit was a major topic of discussion as well.

Van den Broek mentioned the work the City is doing to upgrade its community plans based around the arrival of light rail.

“We want to be ahead of the SkyTrain,” she said. “We ant to be prepared for it.”

Froese talked about not only the opportunities when it comes to transit-oriented development, but the possible pitfalls.

He spoke of “transit oriented displacement,” when low-income people are pushed out of their homes to make way for towers and high-density, high-end homes near rail lines.

Protections for existing residents and the creation of housing for everyone needs to be considered, Froese said.

The staggering pace of growth in some communities was mentioned by mayors.

Braun said there are 5,400 residential units in the development pipeline right now in Abbotsford, and 80 per cent of them are multi-family projects.

Meanwhile, even Langley City, population 27,000, has 700 units under construction and almost 2,000 in the pipeline, said van den Broek.

“We are growing exponentially,” she said.

BC TransitdevelopmentTransportation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Mayor Henry Braun of Abbotsford at the UDI forum in Langley on Jan. 29. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese at the UDI forum in Langley on Jan. 29. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Chilliwack’s Mayor Ken Popove at the UDI forum in Langley on Jan. 29. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Langley City Mayor Val van den Broek at the UDI forum in Langley on Jan. 29. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Just Posted

Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but COVID-19 concerns loom

South Surrey park becomes only place for international couples to meet

Human Rights Tribunal denies church’s request to toss out White Rock Pride Society’s complaint

Star of the Sea and White Rock Pride Society to go to Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Surrey RCMP searching for missing 12-year-old boy

Landon Vangeel-Morgan was last seen 9:14 p.m., May 30 near 96 Avenue and 150 Street

COVID-19: Daily update on pandemic in Surrey, White Rock and beyond

Provincial Health Officer officially bans overnight kids’ camps this summer

Surrey RCMP look for missing man

Tyler Ridout, 36, last seen near Balsam Crescent and 136th Street

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

B.C.’s Central Kootenay region declares state of emergency, issues evacuation orders

The evacuation alert covers all areas except the Cities of Castelgar and Nelson

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Most Read