Letter: Coulter Berry battle about preserving Fort Langley village atmosphere

Dear Editor,

While Mr. Brown believes that the Coulter Berry building will be “a tremendous benefit to the community” [Coulter Berry part of needed change, March 20 Letters, Langley Advance], he does not stand unopposed.

Those for and against the Coulter Berry proposal seem to be focused on the aesthetic historical theme, size of the building, or location. However, it is evident that the great divide between those for and against the new development is their vision for Fort Langley.

On one hand, there is a vision of new revenue focused on attracting more people to Fort Langley. On the other is a vision of keeping Fort Langley a village, and not a memory of a peaceful place that grew into a town.

Mr. Brown makes it quite clear in his letter that benefit has come from previous change in Fort Langley, and therefore he supports this new proposed change. He strengthens his opinion by relating his own personal history and involvement in Fort Langley.

He asks what Fort Langley would be like had Township never approved new developments when met with resistance. Perhaps those against the proposal have taken a good look at how Fort Langley has grown over the years and decided a cap must be put on expansion at some point, if Fort Langley wishes to remain a “great little village,” in the words of Mr. Brown.

If Fort Langley continues to expand, the natural aspect of the trails and river will be lost to various future developments that will follow in the steps of the Coulter Berry building. If the proposal succeeds, it makes it that much easier for larger, multi-purposed developments to take over.

Mr. Brown’s second point supporting the benefits of change is given in his argument that “Wendel’s would still be a gas station.”

Wendel’s is great example, if one is looking at local businesses making revenue. Yet, the fact that Wendal’s owner, Diane Morrison, led the lawsuit against Coulter Berry suggests that, while change may have been beneficial for Wendel’s in the past, this current proposal may be a threat rather than a benefit.

There is a fear that Coulter Berry may become a one-stop location and smaller businesses will be significantly less of a destination.

Next, Mr. Brown points out that, if change hadn’t happened, “there would be no lots smaller than a quarter acre.”

Smaller lots allow for more development and more variety in businesses and buildings, which seems custom to Fort Langley’s style. However, the Coulter Berry building will take up 0.55 acre, and seemingly towers over Beatniks Bistro, which looks dwarfed beside it.  

To follow that, Mr. Brown’s next point is that change is inevitable and adjustments to zoning and bylaws gave Fort Langley everything it has: “current structures, shops, and residential homes.”

However, change is not inevitable, but motivated and caused by choice. Those against the proposal are supporting choice and attempting to make their voice heard.

Furthermore, any proposal that cannot withstand opposition and resistance is not worth developing. In essence, Coulter Berry should be thankful for the scrutiny; it may prove to create a better building in the long run.

Granted that changes to zoning and bylaws have allowed Fort Langley to flourish into what it is today, it won’t remain classified as a “village” if growth is not stunted or stopped. Fort Langley stands to evolve into a bustling town.

Those against the Coulter Berry building are not denying that change hasn’t been beneficial, but rather trying to project where Fort Langley is headed if the size and purpose of the Coulter Berry Building become the new norm.

Lastly, Mr. Brown highlights the selling qualities of the Coulter Berry building: “attractive, functional structure including both commercial and residential.” He also states that the building will contribute to tourist incentive.

There is no debate about the quality or design of the Coulter Berry building. It is purposefully and beautifully designed, and well equipped for its three main purposes of retail, office, and residency.

However, massive tourist appeal created by the Coulter Berry building can have negative effects on the community, if it is all focused on that one location.

With its tasteful design, modern edge, and eco-friendly features, it is possible it will become the magnet of Fort Langley. Simply attracting by sheer size, initially, and then drawing customers in with all the variety offered under one roof.

The question is, will this new change bring benefit to the village setting for Fort Langley, or threaten the small, quaint feel that is rarely persevered these days?

Where change was good before, can it continue to be good, or is there a limit to the capacity the village of Fort Langley can evolve into?

Christine Singh, Langley

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