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City of Langley votes to stop child-care centres from opening in part of downtown

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Langley, B.C. -

The City of Langley is looking to prevent new child-care centres from opening in part of its historic downtown.

It’s a move aimed at preserving the quaint neighbourhood that runs from 204th to 206th streets on Fraser Hwy.

According to Mayor Nathan Pachal, the facades of daycare centres are a major drawback for the area.

"You end up with these windowed-off buildings, so it really creates an uninviting space for shopping,” said Pachal.

The daycare ban is part of a $20-million plan to rejuvenate the two-block area.

There are currently five centres in the neighbourhood and 35 in total in Langley.

“We’re not saying, 'No more child care in downtown,'” the mayor said. "We want to ensure there is a retail mix in 9.5 per cent of our downtown core. The rest of our downtown core can have child care whereever."

But the motion raised eyebrows, at a time when the need for child-care spaces is so dire across the entire province.

"I made a call to my daughter's daycare that she goes to right now and I asked how long the waitlist was, and they said hundreds,” said Mike Solyom, a city councillor.

It’s a reaosn why he voted against the motion.

"There is a fear that this historic downtown of ours would change in an undesirable way if you want to attract tourists to this place, but if you're looking to serve the needs of the people of the city, I think those things are at odds with each other,” he said.

While the decision was initially concerning to see – said Sharon Gregson, president of the Coalition of Childcare Advocates of BC – it may be for the best.

"It isn't just 'child care wherever we can stuff it and make it work,'" said Gregson. "We don't want it in strip malls and next to liquor stores, we want to think about where young children are spending their day.”

She wants to see the priority flipped to, “Where will we put child care?" Instead of, "Where do we not want child care?"

The province has previously provided the city a $4-million grant for child care.

The Ministry of Education and Child Care says it is an expectation for communities to work with the province to increase the overall number of child-care spaces, but municipalities are best placed to answer questions on bylaws and zoning decisions. 

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