Langley City council votes to restrict new daycares downtown

New restrictions would treat daycares similarly to tattoo parlours, despite shortage of childcare facilities

Langley City is looking to prevent new daycares from opening up in its downtown core. The area is a popular place for childcare facilities because of its proximity to Douglas Park. (Each child represents a daycare in Langley’s downtown.) 📷 Grace Kennedy

This story first appeared in the May 21, 2024, edition of the Fraser Valley Current newsletter. Subscribe for free to get Fraser Valley news in your email every weekday morning.

Langley City doesn’t want any more daycares in its downtown core—and the solution may be to treat them like vape shops and tattoo parlours.

Last week, council voted in favour of a ban on new childcare facilities from opening within 400 metres of another daycare on Langley’s one-way strip—effectively stopping any new facilities from setting up shop downtown.

The move—which still requires a public hearing and another vote but was endorsed by the bulk of council—wouldn’t affect the downtown’s five existing daycares, but it could make it harder for prospective daycare operators to find spaces in the fast growing community. It could also make it more challenging for Langley City to meet its self-imposed goal of adding 150 childcare spaces each year.

In all of Langley City, there are roughly 1,400 daycare spaces. Around 250 of those are in its downtown core. The city’s councillors think that’s more than enough.

Langley’s historic downtown—the area surrounding the one-way section of Fraser Highway between Glover Road and 206th Street—currently has three operating daycare facilities. (Two others are located on the opposite side of the street from Langley’s proposed daycare restriction zone.)

Although the buildings are small, the area is popular among daycare providers because of the easy access to Douglas Park (and, likely, relatively low rents). Daycare businesses are not required to have an outdoor play area if they have an approved outdoor play plan to use a space like a park.

Most of these daycares are relatively new, opening in the last year or so. (The oldest facilities opened around 2020.) In February of this year, the Downtown Langley BIA wrote to the city to say there were too many daycares. The BIA argued their presence could deter other businesses from setting up shop in the area, although they didn’t specify how, and said the daycares were taking up “previously valuable retail spaces.” 

Langley’s politicians and city staffers apparently agree. At the council meeting last Monday, staff recommended Langley City limit daycare spaces in the downtown area and forbid any new childcare centre from opening within 400 metres of any existing daycare. The amendment is similar to the bylaw in place for vape shops, thrift stores, tattoo parlours, “personal service” centres, and pharmacies. 

(The 400-metre radius is an effective ban on any new daycares from opening up in the area, as the downtown core is only 391m long.)

Although the BIA suggested the idea, staff said they had their own concerns about the number of daycares. 

Because the area lacks parking, staff said there was a potential for parking conflicts with paying customers during pick-up and drop-off times. (They did not say whether these conflicts were already occurring.) They also said that the opaque window coverings daycares use for privacy may reduce pedestrian interest in the area.

“You really have to be a constant gardener,” director of development services Carl Johannsen said during council. “You have to tend it in order to maintain that variety and that range of businesses.”

Council was, as a whole, supportive of the idea. 

“It’s not daycare downtown. It’s our retail downtown,” Coun. Paul Albrecht said during the meeting on May 13. 

Others agreed with him, saying that the downtown area needed a diverse array of businesses. Many also brought up 72 new childcare spaces the city was going to add at the Douglas Recreation Centre. (The spaces will include 10 infant/toddler spaces, 13 preschool spaces, and 48 before-and-after school spaces.)

Coun. Mike Solyom, whose own children are in daycare, didn’t think those arguments were good enough.

“If what we were providing was beneficial enough and actually made a dent in the demand, then the market would correct and there wouldn’t be a demand for daycares in the downtown core,” he said. 

He also spoke against other councillors’ suggestion that children should be using daycares with access to outdoor space on site, and not walking down Fraser Highway to use a park.

“Talking about the housing crisis that justifies us rezoning three-bedroom apartments to one-bedroom units. Those one-bedroom units are considered adequate for people to live in,” Solyom said, “but small daycares are considered inadequate for children?”

Four years ago, Langley created its own plan to try to increase the number of childcare spaces in the city. That plan hopes to add 150 spaces each year. 

The plan said Langley City didn’t anticipate too many more children in the community by 2030. (BC’s statistics agency projects the number of children aged one to four will increase by about 100 kids between 2023 and 2030, although that figure could rise higher as more homes are built and SkyTrain changes development priorities.) The plan said the city aimed to improve the coverage for daycare spots. 

In 2020, the city had roughly 26 daycare spots for every 100 children—more for preschoolers, but less for school age kids. The goal was to increase that to have 70 spots for every 100 kids under five and more than quadruple the existing number of spots for school-aged children by 2030. That would require about 1,810 total spaces in 2030. 

It is making progress: in 2020, Langley City had 950 childcare spaces. Now, there are roughly 1,400. 

Mayor Nathan Pachal voted in favour of restricting downtown daycares, but said there could be opportunities for the city to “get really creative” and add daycare spaces “every single other place possible in the city.” 

But those changes won’t happen right away. The city will be updating its zoning bylaw in the near future, and said it would be focusing on ways to bring more childcare to other parts of the city. 

The Current asked the Ministry of Education and Childcare about Langley’s potential ban on downtown childcare spaces. BC has been pushing to bring more daycares into communities across the province since 2018, and is funding new spaces in developed by governments or non-profits.

(The Township of Langley was one of the first municipalities to apply for the fund. You can read The Current’s story on that here.)

The ministry didn’t comment on Langley’s bylaw amendment, but did say BC was creating daycare spaces as “public assets,” implying that the province was more focused childcare facilities in schools and other community spaces over private businesses.

Council passed the first two readings of the bylaw amendment on May 13, with Solyom opposed. The bylaw change will now go to a public hearing, after which council will make a final decision on whether to go-ahead with restriction. 

This story first appeared in the May 21 edition of the Fraser Valley Current newsletter. Subscribe for free to get Fraser Valley news in your email every weekday morning.


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