The Fort Langley Community Association's meeting Thursday was packed as hundreds arrived to talk about the planned Coulter Berry Building.
While several other projects around the Fort were also ostensibly on the agenda, it is the Coulter Berry project that is attracting the bulk of the attention.
The Coulter Berry project, unveiled earlier this year, is a proposed three-storey, mixed use building on the corner of Mavis and Glover. If built, it would cover the site of the former IGA and the adjacent Frontier Hardware building.
The building would have retail on the ground floor, offices on the second, and 10 condo units on the third floor. Of the 67 parking stalls, 58 are to be underground.
The size of the building and its parking has sparked the opposition of the Langley Heritage Society, which passed out a flyer detailing its reasons at the meeting.
The society is opposed to the mass of a three-storey building covering 66 per cent of its lot, compared to the previous two-storey plan for part of the site, which would have covered about 40 per cent of the lot.
Society president Fred Pepin also spoke at the meeting about the number of parking spaces, which he feels will be inadequate for the large number of people living, working, and shopping in the building.
The featured speakers at the meeting were Robert Inwood, a design consultant who helped draft the Fort's heritage guidelines, Terry Lyster, a former Township head planner, and Nathan Pachal, a local blogger and activist for liveable cities.
None of them directly spoke for or against the Coulter Berry project, and instead talked about architectural issues, design, and the Fort's recent history and its design as a walkable community.
Inwood has worked on creating heritage-style modern buildings, but he warned against sticking too firmly to a set of guidelines that could create "creeping homogenity." He pointed to the rows of craftsman-style homes in Bedford Landing as an example of a unilateral design approach.
He also urged the Fort's residents to demand not just a pseudo-historical style, but some modern design flair that reflects the Fort's past and present.
Lyster talked about working with the design guidelines as a Township staffer just after they had been adopted.
He noted that one of the first projects he saw pass was the tower attached to the Fort Pub building, which required a variance for its height, but was based on local history and connecting the village to the river.
Pachal talked the most about the specifics of the Coulter Berry proposal, noting that keeping parking underground and away from the fronts of buildings is the best way to create a walk-able downtown.
The trio fielded written questions during the second half of the meeting, including whether Lyster and Inwood had been paid by the developers to speak in their favour.
Inwood said he's never met the developers.
"I had to take the bus here," noted Pachal. He also talked about changing Fort Langley.
"If you never changed the community, we'd still have wooden sidewalks and horses and buggies," Pachal said. But there are some buildings, like the Fort Community Hall, that the community will want to preserve forever, he said.
Lyster fielded a question about how to influence Township council's decision on the issue by saying people should write or speak at an upcoming hearing.
The building will not need a complete rezoning, but it will require a heritage alteration permit and a zoning variance, said Township planner Ramin Seifi.
The Township requires a hearing for a heritage alteration permit, but there is normally no requirement for advertising such a meeting.
"In this case, we are going to," said Seifi.