The so-called Heritage Hole will soon see the resumption of construction, as Langley Township council passed the third reading of bylaws to allow the creation of the Coulter Berry building in Fort Langley.
The seven to two vote saw only Councillors Bob Long and David Davis oppose the three-storey building planned for the corner of Mavis Avenue and Glover Road.
â€œIt seems to me that Fort Langley is split right down the middle on this one,â€ said Coun. Kim Richter.
Of the 194 people who live in the Fort who spoke at the lengthy, three-day public hearings on the matter, Richter said that 104 were in favour, 86 were opposed.
Petitions for and against were similarly close.
â€œMore people like this building than dislike it,â€ Richter said.
â€œIâ€™ve got friends on both sides of this issue, it seems,â€ said Coun. Steve Ferguson.
â€œIn my opinion, it is time for this saga to end, once and for all,â€ said Coun. Charlie Fox. He also criticized the tone of some of the opponents of the building, who he said had launched false attacks.
â€œIâ€™ve weighed all the arguments, and they all have merits in their own rights,â€ said Coun. Bev Dornan.
She said she was in favour overall.
â€œI feel this building would be an asset to the community,â€ Dornan said.
The buildingâ€™s size and scale has made it controversial since it was first proposed. The Coulter Berry building is to have residential units on its top floor, offices on the second floor, and retail space on the ground floor. It is to have underground parking, in a first for the downtown area of the Fort.
There was a slight change in the height of the version voted on on Monday, with a three-foot reduction in the buildingâ€™s height at Mavis and Glover. The final alteration caused councillors to refer to the current design as Coulter Berry 2.1.
Its proponents have been in favour of the project because it will bring in new residents and public parking stalls, and because it will be built to LEED Gold environmental standards.
Opponents charge it is too big, too close to the street, and violates either the letter or the spirit of various heritage rules set out for the Fort.
â€œThe process was wrong,â€ Long said.
â€œI donâ€™t have any problem with three storeys,â€ Long said, but added that he doesnâ€™t think the highest point of the building should be at the corner of Mavis and Glover.
He wanted to refer the project back to Township staff to see what reductions in heights, and increases in setbacks might be possible without compromising the financial viability of the building.
His referral motion was defeated seven to two.
Davis, the other no vote on the project, said the building should conform to the guidelines in place.
â€œNo developer should circumvent the current bylaws or guidelines,â€ Davis said.
The Fortâ€™s current success as a tourist destination is based on a revitalization based on those heritage rules, Davis said.
â€œWith a clear conscience, Iâ€™m voting no again,â€ Davis said.
The Coulter Berry saga has dragged on for years, and was sparked by the fire that destroyed the old Fort Langley IGA on that corner in 2011.
The groceryâ€™s owners, the Lee family, decided to build their new store farther back down Mavis, leaving the corner of Glover open to development.
Statewood Properties acquired another property adjacent to the land on Glover, and in June of 2012 proposed a three-storey structure for the site.
The Township voted on a heritage alteration permit for the site, and excavation work started for the underground parking.
However, a new local organization, the Society of Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development, went to the courts to challenge the process. They were successful, halting work. A judge ruled that the change to the permit wasnâ€™t enough, but that council could use its other powers to increase density.
A second process, including a rezoning and official community plan amendment, started. It was those changes that council approved Monday.