Monday, January 30, 2006

Vecchiato’s Voice - January 30, 2006


How important is green space in Langley? How important are streams in Langley? How important are fish in Langley? How important are trees in Langley?

If you’re like me, you’ll know, understand and appreciate that Langley is a gem in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). If you’re like me, you will probably have moved here because Langley is so unique in the GVRD. It is green. It does have fish and you can drink its water.

However, all of this uniqueness is under attack. If we don’t soon pay attention to what is going on in the Planning Department at Township Hall, “we won’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone” because the Township is clearly “paving paradise to put up a parking lot”.

Take for example, stream setbacks. Setbacks are necessary to protect the ecosystem of streams. This is especially important for fish-bearing streams and Langley is fortunate to have 700 km of such streams.

Stream setbacks used to be 30 meters but the current provincial government has recently decreed that setbacks could be reduced by a municipality to as little as 15 meters. This, of course, promotes more development to the detriment of trees, birds, fish and other wildlife because it makes more land available for development especially along the banks of streams and other waterways.

When the province made this fundamental change to green space, township administration told council "the new regulations...are based in land owner arguments that current development setbacks...leave strips along stream banks...equivalent to creating parks without compensation." (Langley Times, March 16, 2005)

My internal response was: 1) So why don't these taxpayers get credit for park space?; and 2) Why is Township staff (whom we pay) giving sympathy to the development community? I think the Township staff’s comments just aid and abet more taxes for all of us. We shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that development cost charges will cover the costs. They don’t even come close to replacing the natural habitat that we’ve lost.

In the relatively recent past, a former Township planner argued that the nesting season clause in the Provincial Wildlife Act did not apply to development parcels. I e-mailed the Ministry, and was told that indeed, the legislation DID cover all parcels.

Unfortunately, Township planners seem to think that bird surveys are not necessary, despite a clause in the Tree Protection Policy that reminds builders of nesting bird protection.

A case in point on this environmental aspect was clearly illustrated when a major development company was allowed to clearcut 215 trees on the corner of 68th and 203rd without a single survey and in the middle of nesting season.

We know this because Langley Conservation Network (LCN) members filed “FOI’s” under the Freedom of Information Act, and no surveys were found. One LCN member even made a delegation to council on the issue, and was moved to the 3 p.m. Council meeting when no members of the public were there.

In addition, a former senior Township staff member was recently quoted in the Langley Times. He said that some bonus density is being used in developing significant buffers along 200th St. Bonus density, according to the reporter's definition, "allows developers to cluster development in higher leave large green spaces."

Is this what you see when you drive down 200th St.? What I see along 200th St is a turf grass margin that sits atop underground services. It has zero habitat value, and little human value for that matter. Is this what we want our children to ‘enjoy’? Who really wants to push a stroller down this while diesel fumes spew across the turf strip and mini-trees?

And, where will the wildlife and birds go? They can’t nest, roost, or burrow in mini-trees. What we’re now witnessing on 200th St will be replicated several times over before Township planners are finished decimating Willoughby. Is this what we want for the future of Langley? Is this the best that the Township’s high-priced and well-educated planners can offer us? Is this why you moved to Langley? It’s not why I moved here.

Cathleen Vecchiato
Langley Conservation Network

Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for the past 5-1/2 years.She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities.Cathleen formed and leads the Langley Conservation Network. Editor-LFP

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