Tuesday, 25 November 2014

CREEKSIDE FOREST PRESS RELEASE

                       


                                           FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Langley, BC. Tuesday November 25, 2014

This week members and supporters of Watchers of Langley Forests(WOLF) expressed their
extreme disappointment at the decision of the Township of Langley to proceed with the sale of
the Creekside forest property in Aldergrove just days after the municipal election. WOLF also
called upon the public to attend the next afternoon Council meeting on Monday December
1,2014.

Creekside forest is the southern portion of a 19­ acre Township owned property located at
28th Ave and 276th street. The northern unforested portion was once the Township sewage
treatment facility. In the spring of 2014 the land was rezoned to allow for sixty-one detached
lots. Twenty lots are located in the heart of the forest following a “keyhole” design. The edges
of the forest have been set aside by Township for green space. The other forty lots are in the
northern unforested portion. Two water treatment facilities on the northeast and northwest
corners of the parcel are to be retained by the municipality. Bertrand Creek runs along the
west side of the property and Creekside Park is located on the other side of Bertrand Creek.

The Township page printed in local Langley newspapers featured an advertisement for the
sale of all sixty­one lots on Thursday November 20. This is a statutory requirement. Once a
second advertisement is printed this week the sale can proceed. Township staff will have
authority to conclude a sale from the morning of December 1,2014. Council meets later that
day at 3pm.

“It pains me that that the Township has chosen to continue on this path” said advocate for the
forest and Aldergrove resident Jessica Horst. She added “The Township never considered the
recreational and educational advantages of conserving this last publicly owned urban forest in
Aldergrove. Langley kids,especially those at nearby Shortreed Elementary, are losing out on a
great resource. This irreplaceable community asset shouldn’t be cast aside for money. This is
our last chance to get this right.”

Kirk Robertson, Chair of WOLF agreed. “The decision to rezone and sell is ripe for review by
the newly elected Council. I hope that they will get an opportunity to do so “

The fight to save Creekside Forest began in January 2014 when Township Council held
public hearings into a bylaw to subdivide and rezone its own property. The Bylaw received
final approval in the spring. Until now Township has retained ownership of the land.
“Up to now the new lots have just been lines on a map. Once they are sold to a developer the
new reality on the ground is going to significantly change things” said WOLF member Ron
Kitteringham.

WOLF member C. Walther agreed “The forest won’t continue as an intact ecosystem when
the middle of it is taken out. Habitat fragmentation is one of the most detrimental and
irreversible impacts upon a system's integrity and capacity for ecological resilience. Sources
of invasive species quickly out­compete the seedlings of indigenous species once
disturbance occurs causing all future maintenance costs to soar and healthy habitat to be
compromised.”

She continued "Forests can't be defined by the 'living' trees alone. In fact, a forest without
'dead' and decaying wood wouldn't be a healthy forest at all. None of that is taken into
account in single point surveys or bylaw sized tree inventories. Once you start dissecting a
forest into smaller wooded areas the whole stops being more than the sum of its parts.”
Robertson emphasized that the issue of Creekside Forest had a larger context.

“This is part of an ongoing process of land sales by the municipality that has seen Township
consistently fail to consider ecological issues when they decide to sell.They also neglect to
consult with the public or community groups before going ahead. Bertrand Creek
Enhancement Society was not even consulted about this proposed development.”

“Langley residents who care about the forest or these larger issues need to come out to the
Afternoon Meeting next Monday to let Council know that Langley cares about this.”

He added “This is an opportunity to do things differently in Langley Township.”

In June 2012 a group of concerned residents launched a successful campaign to save a
Township owned forest in Glen Valley that is now known as McLellan Forest Natural Park.
Many of the people involved in that earlier campaign formed Watchers of Langley Forests in
July 2012 to fight for the conservation of another nearby Glen Valley forest that had also been
put up for sale by the Township. That forest ,which is now known as the Blaauw Eco Forest,
was purchased by Trinity Western University after a generous donation by the Blaauw family.
The Blaauw forest has been set aside as an educational,research, and conservation area.
WOLF has continued to advocate and fight for the conservation of ecologically significant
forests in Langley Township since then.

Friday, 14 November 2014

TOWNSHIP CANDIDATES ANSWERS TO WOLF QUESTIONS

On Saturday November 15 the people of Langley Township will elect a Mayor and Council for a four year term. To help members of the public make their decision as to how to vote Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF) asked all the candidates for Mayor and Council to comment on two topics. Each topic had two or three questions attached.. The topics were Creekside Forest in Aldergrove and the issue of land sales  by  the Township of Langley.
The questions were as follows.

Creekside Forest
Where do you stand on the proposed development of Creekside Forest in Aldergrove? Do you think it should be saved in its entirety?
Land Sales by Township
 What are you thoughts on the issue of land sales as addressed in the open letter to Mayor and Council by Watchers of Langley Foresets and Salmon River Enhancement Society? Do you think the ToL staff report listing Township-owned  properties that could be sold should be made public as soon as it is completed? And do you agree with the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed for modern amenities?

Here are the answers we have received as of the early afternoon on November 14. We will update as we receive any additional answers. I have split the answers up with part one appearing first and part two second as you scroll down the blog.

CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR
JACK FROESE
No reply
RICK GREEN

 Thank you for your email and questions posed. I will answer them with a preamble first of some necessary history related to Township owned land first.
When I decided to run for office in 2007 and subsequently announced publicly in February of 2008 I did so ONLY after I uncovered a litany of issues I felt were patently wrong. One of the serious issues I raised and went after then Mayor Kurt Alberts for was the Dixon Pit Property as you may recall. This will go down as a text book example of what not to do, but that is another story.
During that election campaign I undertook to find out or uncover a list of properties the Township taxpayer owned. We were told they did not have a comprehensive list. We tried three times and were denied. After the election and during a transition meeting with the CAO I requested immediately an inventory of all property. It came to me in three weeks in about 5 binders, one per classification with pictures, maps and history (ie purchase price etc,). That inventory was made public and announced by me on or around January of 2009. It is available to the public in the Real Estate Department. Up to this time there was and I believe is today (minus my time in office) a cloak of secrecy around the Township property. I said during that time that there was around $500 million in inventory, which was denied by the then Mayor Kurt Alberts which I found to be true after the election.

My answers to your questions are as follows:
1.       RE Creekside Forest in Aldergrove – I will seek support through a new Council an update/status of this prospective development with a view of to pull back from the plans where and if possible subject to contracts that may have been signed?
2.       RE Land Sales – I would put it another way it is about land / asset management. I have always stated that land sales should be a very public process but only after going through a very strict internal review. In the 2008 Municipal Election Campaign I introduced the concept of creating a “Township of Langley Property Endowment Trust” and “Trust Fund”. It was patterned after the “Vancouver Property Endowment Trust and Trust Fund” established by then Mayor Art Phillips in the 70s in answer to the out of control wild west property deals which were occurring frequently with friends and insiders gaining benefit. It started out in the $100 million range, today it is worth over $2 Billion and over the last 40 or so years has transferred about $300 million into Vancouver’s General Revenue. It’s management is set up with complete transparency (what is allowed obviously) and reports to Council with all decisions up to Council.
NOTE: You may recall this was criticized during my campaign as a method to sell off our assets – That is exactly what it is NOT! The Trust (as the name means) is a protection of the asset, increasing it’s value and managing the asset for the taxpayer.
3.       RE Making list public – Yes if there is a list but frankly I believe the way Council and staff are going about things it is knee jerk and there is no comprehensive, short, medium or long term. Selling assets for the purpose of funding Capital Projects is fundamentally wrong.

Kirk, I have had a very good tour of the Creekside Forest in Aldergrove by Jessica Horst a few weeks back.
I hope this email answers your questions, I would be pleased to discuss the issue in greater detail at your convenience.
All the best
Rick Green
SERENA OH
No reply
CANDIDATES FOR TOWNSHIP COUNCIL
PETRINA ARNASON
Creekside Forest

Where do you stand on the proposed development of Creekside Forest in Aldergrove? Do you think it should be saved in its entirety?I am in favour of rescinding the rezoning of the forested property for single family residential development. A new Council should consider, based on an appropriate assessment of the situation and future density increases to the area, whether or not to save both parcels or to compromise by allowing the development of the former sewage treatment properties only. At this time, I personally favour maintaining both properties and utilizing the former service property as a remediation project which would provide an opportunity for local environmental stewards, educators, and the Township to create a model for environmental rehabilitation and ecosystem recovery which would also expand the forested ecosystem and create more green space for Aldergrove.


Land Sales by Township
What are you thoughts on the issue of land sales as addressed in the open letter to Mayor and Council by Watchers of Langley Foresets and Salmon River Enhancement Society? Do you think the ToL staff report listing Township-owned properties that could be sold should be made public as soon as it is completed? And do you agree with the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed for modern amenities?I totally support the release of information by the Township regarding our land inventory and would push the Township to be more open and transparent with respect to all land sales and transactions, insofar as information divulged does not harm the public interest with respect to potential TOL land purchases. I am fundamentally opposed to the selling of our natural capital (surplus land) in order to pay for amenities as I believe that this is not sustainable and that it is not in keeping with prudent economic management as we will need many of these properties in the future and they will only rise in value as land suitable for parks, development and infrastructure becomes more scarce.

KARL BUCHANAN
No reply
SOLON BUCHOLTZ
In regards to the questions. I believe we need to respect our land and people. Langley's heritage and natural greenspaces are some of our greatest assets. We are a diverse​ group of communities, land and people. Our decisions, whether about land sales or developments such as Creekside, need to be community driven and consensus led.
The Creekside development has again shown us that many on current council are not being guided by the residents or the sustainability charter of 2008. The decisions that are being made permanently destroy irreplaceable lands of ecological value. Aldergrove does need growth and has a revitalization plan that promotes it. Why we are revising the OCP for the benefits of few and the loss of many symbolizes our need for change in direction at a municipal level. We need to ensure our elected officials are transparent in the planning process and advocate for the residents.
I have been a strong advocate for transparency when it comes to land sales in the Township. More often than not, the majority of residents are unaware of the sale of any community lands until after the fact. This disconnect with our residents and lack of transparency, is a real issue needing to be addressed. Langley is land rich and often cash poor. If we dispose of our tangible land assets of irreplaceable value, our short-term gains will results in our long term failure to be a real community of value, livability and sustainability. I think the list of land owned by the people should be public and sales should be open to scrutiny prior to them being made available for sale. Thus, these decisions must be made with public input as a first step in consensus led governance.

DAVID DAVIS
1. I originally voted in favour of developing so the funds could be put towards the pool.
I also supported a motion by Councillor Richter to put the development on the North side and would support revisiting the motion (as discussed with Jessica Horst) as there might be some new ideas on how we can separate the south side. I have visited Creek side Forest a few times. I am very open to new information and ideas.

2. I believe that if the township is selling off township owned land then it should be transparent to the public.
I am a big advocate for saving farmland and preserving our rural areas.

 
BEV DORNAN
No reply
ZOSIA ETTENBERG
No reply
STEVE FERGUSON
No reply
CHARLIE FOX
No reply
CLINT LEE(LIVE LANGLEY)


Creekside Forest
Where do you stand on the proposed development of Creekside Forest in Aldergrove? Do you think it should be saved in its entirety?



I am NOT in favour of development of Creekside Forest.  Creekside Forest is the last remaining forest in south Aldergrove within walking distance of the core center.  As such, we should be preserving this natural space for the enjoyment of its residents and their future generations.  It is unfortunate that our past council sees only economic value in its development rather than the social value the area brings to the community.  Therefore, I believe it should be preserved in its entirety, although I understand that a majority of residents are only against the proposed 20 homes in the middle of the forest.  Personally, I would like to see the entire area protected as a formal Township park.


Land Sales by Township
and What are you thoughts on the issue of land sales as addressed in the open letter to Mayor and Council by Watchers of Langley Foresets and Salmon River Enhancement Society? Do you think the ToL staff report listing Township-owned  properties that could be sold should be made public as soon as it is completed? And do you agree with the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed for modern amenities?

The Township owns an enormous amount of property to the tune of $500 million. I’d like to verify these numbers by directing staff to create an inventory list of these assets before we make any hard decisions in addition to making this information publicly available.  Mostly, these are tremendous community assets so we should first be looking at ways to manage, protect and enhance these assets without having to sell them off.    Many of these assets could be used for parks, for example, which can lead to spin off benefits for many years to come.  I believe there’s shortsightedness on the part of past council and it reflects in their recent decisions.  I would rather have us look at some real long term solutions to creating value to these assets, both financially and socially.

Providing amenities for our communities is important as well as preserving our natural and built heritage.  As the birthplace of BC, our natural and built heritage means a great deal to a great deal of people so we should bear that responsibility with great humility.  Areas such as Creekside Forest, Fort Langley, and Murrayville represent our connections to the past that should not be given up for the sake of “progress”.  There are ways to bring progress without having to sacrifice our heritage.

PATRICIA LESSARD

I was taken on a tour by Jessica and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the Creekside Forest.  A delightful jewel in the heart of Aldergrove. I would have liked to have had this jewel preserved.
I believe we need a comprehensive list of Township properties compiled and an estimated value both economically and environmentally.  This list should be readily available to residents.  I believe when considering selling Township property we need to evaluate if it is in the best interest of the community when and if it should be sold.  Environmental and community groups must be consulted to gain their input into the value of the property beyond monetary.

MEL KOSITSKY(editorial note-Mel Kositsky answers are compiled from portions of 2 emails I recieved from him. Any incoherence is my responsiblity)
 Creekside Forest

 I know Aldergrove is in desperate need of more housing, especially for families and seniors. I am a supporter of an urban forest concept, but affordable housing is top on my list. I am not sure who the housing proposal is targeted to, but the right development plan can perhaps achieve both goals, maybe by increasing the density. I will have to look into it closer. You need trees to build houses and the amount of land available to build housing in Aldergrove is very limited unless you can start dipping into the agriculture lands and that is a whole different discussion. Not going there! 
Land Sales
I am very familiar with the natural heritage and ecological value of land that is not designated parkland.

My work with LEPS, Metro Vancouver parks, TOL parks, the Pacific Parklands Foundation and Suzuki Foundation gives me a broad understanding of the issues outlined in the letter.

My years on Council also gave me a good understanding on municipal land sales. I was involved in the protection of the West Creek lands, Langley Bog, Brae Island, and many other parcels. You can be assured if I do get re-elected there would be a good analysis of any land before it was offered for sale. The only reason we have the land is because previous councils (some way before me) had the smarts to acquire it - otherwise we would not be having this discussion. TOL is not broke and does not need to rush to sell off its land holdings.

BOB LONG
Creekside Forest

Where do you stand on the proposed development of Creekside Forest in Aldergrove? Do you think it should be saved in its entirety?
A considerable portion of the lands have been set aside for conservation.
Land Sales by Township
and What are you thoughts on the issue of land sales as addressed in the open letter to Mayor and Council by Watchers of Langley Foresets and Salmon River Enhancement Society? Do you think the ToL staff report listing Township-owned  properties that could be sold should be made public as soon as it is completed? And do you agree with the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed for modern amenities?


Sure you can see the document - and that is a good principle on which to consider land sales in the Township.













TOWNSHIP CANDIDATES ANSWERS TO WOLF QUESTIONS PART 2

On Saturday November 15 the people of Langley Township will elect a Mayor and Council for a four year term. To help members of the public make their decision as to how to vote Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF) asked all the candidates for Mayor and Council to comment on two topics. Each topic had two or three questions attached.. The topics were Creekside Forest in Aldergrove and the issue of land sales y the Township of Langley.
The questions were as follows.
Creekside Forest
Where do you stand on the proposed development of Creekside Forest in Aldergrove? Do you think it should be saved in its entirety?
Land Sales by Township
 What are you thoughts on the issue of land sales as addressed in the open letter to Mayor and Council by Watchers of Langley Foresets and Salmon River Enhancement Society? Do you think the ToL staff report listing Township-owned  properties that could be sold should be made public as soon as it is completed? And do you agree with the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed for modern amenities?

Here are the answers we have received as of the early afternoon on November 14. We will update as we receive any additional answers. I have split the answers up with part one appearing first and part 2 second as you scroll down the blog.

Part 1 can be read here.

JACKIE MANDZAK


Creekside Forest

Where do you stand on the proposed development of Creekside Forest in Aldergrove? Do you think it should be saved in its entirety?

My understanding is that Creekside Forest in Aldergrove is the last forest in the area that is owned by the Township.  It currently has a keyhole design developed proposed for the site; one that is situated in the middle of the forest.  At this time it has been suggested that there will still be forest remaining on either side of the development with a walking path that takes one behind the development to connect both sides of the remaining forest.

I see a few things wrong with this.  The first being that it the last forest site in the community that can be protected for current residents and for future generations to enjoy.  While I understand the idea behind the sale of the property, I do not believe that it would be in the best interests of the residents of the TOL to see this happen.  

Building in the middle of this ecosystem will destroy it.  Many of the species that currently reside in the forest will either be displaced or will not survive the development as their habitat will be removed.   I realize that we need space for people to live, but the development proposed will be higher end homes that back onto the forest.  These will not be affordable for most people.  This creates a situation where we put the needs of a few (there are not many homes in the development plan) against the needs of a community to preserve a wildlife area.  Already half of the forest has been sold and in my opinion, the remaining half should be preserved.

It shouldn't be about development vs environment.  It should be about preserving the quality of life for future generations. The forest has the capability of providing a place for residents to experience a natural park space - both now and in the future.  As the Aldergrove community grows, this will be a much needed resource.
Land Sales by Township
and What are you thoughts on the issue of land sales as addressed in the open letter to Mayor and Council by Watchers of Langley Foresets and Salmon River Enhancement Society? Do you think the ToL staff report listing Township-owned  properties that could be sold should be made public as soon as it is completed? And do you agree with the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed for modern amenities?

I do think that the list of TOL owned properties should be made public once the list is completed.  I have publicly stated that the properties of the TOL belong to the residents of the community as a whole, and as such, the process of their sale should be public.  Many properties will not have public concern surrounding their disposition.  However, some shall, and it is prudent to ensure that the input from concerned citizens and environmental groups is taken under advisement.   This isn't possible if the properties that might be sold are not publicly known until action is taken by the council in their regard. 

Section 90 of the community charter states that council may invoke that section to close the meeting in regards to the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements, if the council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the municipality.  The key word here is 'may'.  To close the meetings as a matter of course each time TOL lands are involved does not give transparency to the process.  I do understand that this may not always be possible, but it should be strived for.

I have also stated before development in an ecologically sensitive area, environmental studies must be done by a party that is neutral in the actual development process.   If this was to occur prior to land sales, it would assist in determining what the use of the land might be, and if the parcel was of greater ecological value. 

In regards to the open letter that was addressed to the current Mayor and Council, I am in agreement with what you have stated.  Having an inventory, with environmental input, would actually allow for greater preservation of sensitive areas, while ensuring that those properties which would be a good fit for sale and development are well noted.


Once the natural spaces are gone, they are gone forever.  It is important to preserve some of these spaces for future generations to study and to enjoy. 

Thank you for your questions.  I hope I have been able to answer them clearly.


KEVIN MITCHELL

Creekside Forest - Having toured the site, I feel the southern portion of the forest should be retained in its entirety while the northern portion be developed with spacious yards accentuating the green space to the south, community pathways and single level homes geared towards 55+.
Land Sales by Township - According to former Mayor Rick Green, there is already a listing of all Township properties.  I believe this should be posted on the Township website and updated regularly.  Regarding land sales, I would consider sales as part of the normal purchase and sale of certain surplus properties with the proviso that the affected community (e.g. Glen Valley) residents are provided sufficient input to the impact of the sale on their area well prior to the commercial offering. Regarding profits from land sales, I would require that all proceeds are strictly used to finance additional land purchases providing community amenities such as nature parks and green space  as the first priority.

SCOTT NICHOLS

1.) I do support the work of Jessica and her Creekside group.
2.) Yes, the Creekside forest should be saved in its entirety.
3.) Yes, the Township report should be released as soon as it is completed.
4.) Yes, our natural heritage should NOT be sacrificed for modern amenities.


ANGIE QUAALE
No reply
KIM RICHTER
Thank you very much for your email and Election 2014 Candidate questions. I appreciated receiving them.

My responses are as follows.

Creekside Forest
Where do you stand on the proposed development of Creekside Forest in Aldergrove? Do you think it should be saved in its entirety?Yes. It should be saved. That is why I voted against this particular development proposal.


Land Sales by Township
What are you thoughts on the issue of land sales as addressed in the open letter to Mayor and Council by Watchers of Langley Foresets and Salmon River Enhancement Society? Do you think the ToL staff report listing Township-owned  properties that could be sold should be made public as soon as it is completed? And do you agree with the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed for modern amenities?I strongly agree that natural heritage should be preserved particularly in Brookswood/Fernridge. Only 3% of all of Langley Township is coniferous forest and 48% of that forest is in Brookswood/Fernridge. When the Township decides to sell its publicly-owned land, the public should be properly consulted before that land is placed on the market.

I hope this answers your questions. If you have more, please let me know.

Thank you again for taking the time to write.

Sincerely, Kim Richter
KERRI ROSS(LIVE LANGLEY)
I am expecting a response from Kerri Ross shortly.
MICHELLE SPARROW
No reply
DAVE STARK
Let me first say that I am the only candidate running in the Township who has taken a Zero Tolerance Approach to allowing ANY land to be taken out of the Agricultural Land Reserve. I refer to this here because my justification, and reasoning for making this bold statement are the same reasons for my response to your question about Creekside Forest. Natural heritage should be protected, and I feel that an absolute line should be drawn in the sand to protect it for future generations. Like my stance on the ALR, I believe that many decision-makers, and developers only take a short-term perspective of valuable resources where we need to look well into the future. Natural forests, like farmland, can not be re-created. We should NOT allow the offering up of our natural heritage as a sacrifice to the Gods of development and profit. There are other lands and other ways to develop a community.

Regarding the Open Letter, it is both succinct, and well written. I agree with all points made by WOLF and the Salmon River Enhancement Society. My understanding is that a complete inventory of TOL owned lands was completed in 2009. There has been no "political will" or reason for this council to make it public. This is why we need to change the majority of this group and bring back transparency and trust to our local government. Given that council and staff have shown their complete disregard for ecologically-sensitive properties, a "new" community-based planing process needs to be introduced, not only for this topic, but for many other community issues.

The existing process, or lack thereof, has been costly in terms of loss of valuable lands, and a waste of many stakeholder's time. A new process will be a win-win for everyone involved.

The TOL Property Portfolio is a significant asset for the Township and residents. This 500 million dollar asset needs to be better managed with a goal to asset development. Better management will allow for not only strategic/justified sales, but will provide a greater return for taxpayers over time.

Lastly, we need to seriously look at what the TOL considers "Surplus". This is a scary term when looking at the long term for both natural heritage and farmland. Perhaps we have some "Surplus" staff.
GRANT WARD
No reply
BLAIR WHITMARSH
Creekside Forest
Where do you stand on the proposed development of Creekside Forest in Aldergrove? Do you think it should be saved in its entirety?
I am supportive of some development in the Creekside Forest.  Currently, a minimum of 19 acres has been set aside for preservation and it is possible there could be more.  The new council should look at the land very carefully and be sure that development is not have a significant, negative impact on the environment.  The Township owns the land so there is still an opportunity to make adjustments to the use of that land.   


Land Sales by Township
and What are you thoughts on the issue of land sales as addressed in the open letter to Mayor and Council by Watchers of Langley Foresets and Salmon River Enhancement Society? Do you think the ToL staff report listing Township-owned  properties that could be sold should be made public as soon as it is completed? And do you agree with the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed for modern amenities?

The process for the sale of land should be as open and  transparent as possible.  I am certainly open to the sale of Township land but only after a good process of determining the overall heritage or ecological value of the land. 


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

OPEN LETTER TO MAYOR AND COUNCIL

An Open Letter to Mayor and Council
October 7,2014
Dear Mayor and Council,
On March 20, the Langley Times reported that Township staff were preparing a report for Township Council identifying Township-owned properties that could be sold to pay for future infrastructure in Langley Township. We the undersigned, are concerned about the implications  of this article. Six months have passed without this staff report being made public. We write to you with the assumption that it has not yet been presented to Council.
As the article acknowledges, past and present policy with regard to the sale of what the Township has identified as “surplus property” has generated much controversy. The approach that the Township has taken appears to many to be secretive and reactive. There is an obvious need for a process with greater transparency, one grounded in sound planning.
The lands belonging to the Township are the collective property of the community of Langley. Decisions regarding the management of 'surplus properties' greatly impact the public good and will affect the patterns of future development in the neighbourhoods in which they are located. Decisions regarding the sale or retention of these lands  must take a long-term view. We are particularly concerned that the ecological value of  'surplus properties'  be given greater consideration.
Under the current approach, it appears that the Township has proceeded without adequately considering or  informing itself about the ecology of parcels placed on the market. It has therefore been left to individual citizens and community groups to bring these issues to the attention of Council and Staff. In response to protest Township has made ad hoc corrections that have failed to address the larger problem. The danger that significant ecosystems could be lost remains. 
Although heartened by the implication that the above mentioned staff report will be released to the public upon receipt by Council, there are a number of additional steps that we feel Mayor and Council can undertake.
1) Council should direct Staff to undertake consultations with stewardship groups and other environmental and community groups to assist in the preparation of the staff report. Upon completion of the staff report, it should be presented to Council and released to the public at the same time. We urge Council to authorize this action in a timely manner and to see that the completion of the report is not delayed.
2) Develop a comprehensive inventory of Township lands that would be publicly accessible on the web. In time this could include the results of ecological surveys of individual properties that have been prepared by public or private entities.
3)  Prepare a comprehensive plan for the sale and retention of Township lands that takes into account the ecological value of particular parcels. The impact on Langley aquifers from any resulting destruction of forests and wetlands must be considered. The Township should  commit itself to the principle that our natural heritage should not be sacrificed in the development of modern amenities.
 4) Council has made it a uniform practice to invoke Section 90 of the Community Charter as a way of closing meetings of Council to the public when land sales are under consideration. The resulting lack of transparency compounds the difficulties in the issues already discussed. When a sale is well-advised, this practice hinders maximum advertising to prospective buyers, and when a sale is ill-advised it prevents the public from seeing their elected representatives debate the proposal. The public interest is thus served by greater transparency in both instances.Only exceptional circumstances can justify invoking Section 90 in the circumstance  of land sales. We strongly urge Council to invoke Section 90 sparingly in the case of land sales and on a case by case basis.
5)The comprehensive plan should recognize that although a policy of selling off real estate to generate capital can have merit in some circumstances care must be taken that land worth more monetarily in the future could be lost through poor planning. Holding on to 'surplus properties' may also provide a much needed source of income in the future.

Finally, we urge Council to take these steps in a timely manner so that the ensuing discussion and debate on Council and amongst the public can begin before, and not after, the upcoming municipal election this November. We would encourage Council and staff to begin the  process by meeting with community groups prior to November 1st. We would be pleased to participate in such a meeting.  
Respectfully,
Watchers of Langley Forests

Salmon River Enhancement Society
*Both groups have reviewed this letter and being convinced that the issue  is an important one that should be addressed they have joined together to send this letter.


Saturday, 31 May 2014

THE DAY IS HERE

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow Saturday May 31(technically today) will be an opportunity to get a free guided tour of Creekside Forest in Aldergrove. Details here.

Here is a quick summary.

The tours  will be from 10 am to 3 pm at 274th and 28th Avenue.

Also between 10 am and 3pm there will be from a Community Event at Aldergrove Athletic Park. There will be crafts,games and facepainting and Harriet the Owl will bet there from 10 am to 11 am.
The address is 29th Avenue 267B Street.

So to recap Harriet the Owl and facepainting at Aldergrove Athletic Park. You can  have your picture taken with her for five dollars.
HARRIET the OWL



and at the same time you can get a FREE tour of Creekside Forest.

I hope you can make it.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE

Here is another view of the forest. This one has some trees  that have seen better days.But there are others still standing proud in the background.