Fort Langley will get a new three-storey building downtown, despite a deeply divided community that argued for two nights over the pros and cons.
The Coulter Berry Building proposed for downtown Fort Langley is either a much-needed economic boon, or a monstrously large structure that will damage the village’s heritage character.
There was little middle ground on Monday and Tuesday night as both sides faced off in a lengthy hearing in Langley Township council chambers.
Developer Statewood Properties applied for a heritage alteration permit, to build a three-storey commercial, office, and residential structure at the corner of Glover Road and Mavis Avenue. It will have stores and restaurants on the ground floor, offices on the second floor, and 10 condo units on the top floor.
The site is that formerly occupied by the Fort IGA and Frontier Hardware.
The building will include underground parking, public washrooms, and would run all the way to its southern property line, up against the much smaller Beatnik’s Bistro restaurant.
It may also include a green “living wall” or mural on the south side, a green roof, and large street trees out front. Those changes were in an amendment made by Councillor Kim Richter.
Except for Coun. David Davis, the entire council voted in favour of the project. Coun. Bob Long was absent.
Paul St. Pierre spoke forcefully against the project.
“We need a three storey building in our community like we need a cholera outbreak,” he said.
Some places were made to be small, including Fort Langley, he said.
“My hope is that you will toss this out entirely and just leave us alone,” said St. Pierre.
Misty van Popta, speaking in favour of the project, noted that few were surprised to see sharp divisions of opinion.
“There has never been a peaceful consensus,” she said.
However, as a business owner in the village she supported bringing more people and offices to the Fort, saying it would help a town highly dependent on seasonal tourism.
Prominent residents like Howie Vickberg and Brenda Alberts also spoke in favour of the project.
Harvey Brown, whose grandfather Billy gave his name to Billy Brown Road, was also in favour, and noted that he has seen much bush and farmland even within the village turned into housing over the years.
Many of those in favour were both residents, and business owners, but there was no unanimity among the local shop owners.
Gail Chaddock-Costello, who runs a small business, said she feared the Fort could become a playground for wealthy developers.
Diane Morrison, a Fort Langley BIA founder, spoke against the plan.
“It can and should be developed within the heritage bylaws,” she said.
Fred Pepin of the Langley Heritage Society was upset that the heritage guidelines were ignored, and worried about the number of parking spaces.
“Where are we going to put the cars?” he asked.
One of the few to fall in the middle of the debate was Connie Blundy, president of the Fort Langley Community Association.
Most of the association’s directors were initially in favour of the project, Blundy said. But they heard a lot of both opposition and support from local residents.
“How do you represent the views of a community that is so completely divided?” Blundy said.
She said Fort Langley as a community is tired of fighting battles over every significant development. In recent years, the Bedford Landing project has been the focus of local ire and controversy, and previous plans for the old mill site were even more contentious.
Blundy said the community needs to renew its Official Community Plan and revisit its heritage guidelines with the Township, creating some kind of consensus for both the Coulter-Berry site and for other future projects.
The meeting Monday ran until 11 p.m., with 34 people speaking, but about 20 names left on the list of registered speakers.
More than 40 people spoke on the second night of the meeting Tuesday, with those opposed outweighing those in favour overall.