Follow the money, they say. Langley Township recently approved the Forewest project in Willoughby, despite almost universal condemnation from the Willoughby community.
Almost 11 acres was bought by the Abbotsford developer for just over $6 million in 2006. Of the 11 acres, eight could be developed and would have been worth perhaps $1 million per acre, once approved.
But fortuitously, less than a year later, the Township re-designated the property, along with others on 200th Street, for high density.
Designated density more than quadrupled overnight, from 12 per acre to more than 50. Land that was worth $1 million per acre immediately became worth much more. Even a very conservative estimate of 50 per cent land appreciation means that the eight acres had an overnight gain of $4 million.
What did Langley get out of this? As far as we can tell, the Township demanded nothing more than what it would have got at the lower density.
The argument that development will expand the tax base has never made any sense, since taxes only pay for ongoing expenses. If there was a benefit to expanding the tax base, why do our taxes go up so much every year?
Not all communities let these windfall profits happen without making sure the taxpayer also benefits. Vancouver demands that developers make contributions to the community (in the form of park space, meeting spaces and plazas, public art, etc.) totaling 75 per cent of the windfall profit.
We don't know what the Township's excuses are for not going this route, since they won't let us see the recent taxpayer-funded study on the topic.
Let's assume that TOL did negotiate 75 per cent of the very conservatively estimated $4 million that Forewest has been handed. That would be $3 million - a familiar figure. That is the same amount the Township is trying to extract from its own citizens to prevent sale and likely destruction of a provincially important wilderness area at Gray's Pit. The Township owns the land, but claims to be so short of money, it has to be sold. So in one of the more bizarre moves ever, the Township is putting the squeeze on its own citizens.
What is wrong with this picture? The Township is selling off the heritage of the Langley taxpayer, and filling the pockets of the developers.
This must change. Doug McFee, Langley
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