Langley City council has tightened up the rules on thrift stores and won’t allow new ones to set up within 400 metres of existing operations.
The July 25 council meeting included public hearing on business bylaw regulations. Outdoor drop boxes will not be allowed. Council gave final approval to the bylaw changes. The bylaw makes no distinction between thrift shops run by or for charities and secondhand for-profit stores.
The Downtown Langley Business Association recent asked for changes, saying there are 18 thrift shops within City limits. A City map shows 10 donations bins. Existing operations will be grandfathered in.
The DLBA wrote to Langley City council in mid-June asking for changes to counter the growing perception that comes with having too many thrift stores.
“We recognize that there is a place for thrift stores in every community, but like everything else, if there are too many, this is cause for concern with respect to public perception, and for those anchor businesses that don’t necessarily want their business located in what is fast becoming known as a ‘thrift store downtown’,” DLBA executive director Teri James wrote to the City.
The business umbrella group also wants the donation bins banned in the City because they are unsightly and often have items left on the ground around them.
Four members of the community wrote, evenly split on the bylaw. Resident Rebecca Barrett suggested the bylaw distance be 800 metres and objected to having a donation bin on the grounds of Simonds Elementary. She wrote that charities should pick up donations.
Executive director Dan Collins, of the Langley Association for Community Living, told council the organization recently went into donation bins for revenue but was asked by a property owner to remove their bin in the City when these changes were proposed. The associations remaining bins are in the Township.
“The revenue that’s generated by thrift stores and bins is vital,” he said.
He said 10 to 12 bins in good locations can earn a charity in the neighbourhood of $100,000 annually but also noted that many of the bins in the Langleys are for Vancouver- and Richmond-based organizations that do not serve this community and there are also private interest bins with no charity element.
Councillors noted that they had heard reaction from residents and the business community on these topics.
Coun. Rudy Storteboom said he’s an avid thrift shopper but in the end, he voted to approve the changes.
Coun. Gayle Martin said the City is not opposed to thrift shops and their charities but the downtown is saturated and the bylaw does not mean the City is against such shops.
“You are appreciated and the charities you represent are appreciated,” she said.
Coun. Jack Arnold said the marketplace should decide which operations survive, not the City.
“Everytime we get something that we don’t feel is classy enough for the city or doesn’t fit with our standards, we decide there’s too many of them and so let’s get rid of them,” he commented.
Coun. Val van den Broek said the City should have done a better job on this issue before it became saturated.
“I’ve had many phone calls for and against,” she said.