Langley Township is going to court as Metro Vancouver tries to quash its plans for a university district.
The long-simmering dispute between Metro Vancouver and the Township over planning, municipal powers, and urban sprawl, came back to the forefront after the Township passed the fourth and final reading of bylaws to create the district.
The planned district is to surround Trinity Western University, and will run roughly parallel to the Trans Canada Highway on both sides of Glover Road.
It will also include the "Wall property," a proposed housing development that is not officially connected to the university, and which drew much criticism from its rural neighbours and local environmentalists.
Metro Vancouver argues that the district's planning violates the Township's own Regional Context Statement, and document every municipality within Metro must create to regulate its own growth.
"What it boils down to is a difference of opinion," said Mayor Jack Froese of Langley Township.
The Township holds that its University District plans meet with the local guidelines; Metro says otherwise, citing plans to build small lots in rural areas.
The Wall Property has been one of the most contentious parts of the plan to create the district.
Privately held, the Wall Corporation has proposed a 67-unit subdivision of houses, with some coach house suites included. Part of a larger property, most of the land would be placed under a covenant to prevent any future development.
Froese admits that a similar subdivision shouldn't just be dropped into a rural area, such as Glen Valley.
"If there was no university to the north of it_ I'd have some serious questions," he said.
But with the district, it can be part of a compact community, he argues.
Although there is no way of guaranteeing that a single student or faculty member will live at the site, Froese said all the Township can do is create housing within walking distance of the school.
"That fits into good planning," he said.
The majority of Metro Vancouver board members did not agree.
The board of municipal mayors and councillors voted by a large majority to seek the court order to quash the University District, said board chair Greg Moore.
The issue is not about who has the right to determine planning and zoning, Moore said.
From Metro Vancouver's perspective, the Township and Metro have already agreed on their Regional Context Statement, and the plans for the district go against that agreement.
Metro Vancouver does not want to control the Township's planning process, he said.
Froese thinks it does set precedent.
"Who controls land use, should it be a locally elected council, or should it be Metro Vancouver staff?" Froese said.
The quashing order requested by Metro Vancouver is expected to be argued before a judge this fall, likely in October or November, Froese said.
The Township had previously asked for mediation on the issue with Metro, but that was rejected by a Metro committee, said Froese.
Opponents of the university district, and more specifically of the Wall property plans, have been very vocal over the last year and a half.
They have derided the plans for the subdivision as "spot zoning," and said that construction in the area could harm the Salmon River watershed. The Salmon River flows past the university.
@ Copyright 2013