Letter: Three Coulter Berry storeys fit Fort Langley

Dear Editor,

The author of the Fort Langley Building Facade Guidelines, Mr. Robert Inwood, is in favour of the Coulter Berry project. He made it abundantly clear that guidelines have to be flexible enough to allow for innovative designs, or a sameness will develop that will inevitably detract from the protected area.

He was also clear that he thought three storeys could fit into the town.

Heritage isn’t something that existed only in the past. What will be history tomorrow is being made today.

The living people of this community are just as important to Langley and to our Canadian society as the people who came before them. Every generation owes the previous generation a debt of gratitude for their contributions, but that doesn’t extend to preserving every building or every idea they have left behind.

I also lived on Vancouver Island around the time Chemainus come up with a solution to revitalize a dying commercial centre. Their solution was to paint murals on various town buildings to attract tourists. That is not a solution open to Fort Langley, because the guidelines discourage wall murals other than wall signs to advertise one’s business.

Chemainus also has a pretty great bluegrass festival in July.

Zoning bylaws did not exist until the 1950s. Building codes were primitive. No builder concerned himself with preventing earthquake damage or conserving energy, or making buildings accessible for the disabled or preventing toxic VOC’s from entering the atmosphere or not using asbestos insulation or tiles – or even, in most cases, building something that would last a very long time.

Builders pretty much built whatever they wanted with the materials that were readily available, and at the lowest cost possible.

Why are “developers” who built buildings 50, 60, or 70 years ago seen as saints, and someone who is trying to build something that will last far into the future as a sinner?

The Fort Langley National Historic Site itself needed extensive repairs and renovations in just the past quarter century. Some of the same people supporting the Coulter Berry building worked on that, as well, trying to preserve a heritage which had fallen into serious disrepair.

Three-storey buildings are already in Fort Langley. I have seen many tourists admiring and taking pictures of Heritage Manor, despite the fact that the Heritage Society dislikes it.

The Fort Langley hotel that burned down was also three storeys.

As a child, I lived in train stations much like the one in Fort Langley, as my father was a station agent in Saskatchewan. I have fond memories not of the buildings, but of experiences of being involved with the railway life.

You cannot replicate the experience of small town living simply by keeping the buildings at two storeys.

Both the train station and the Fort Langley National Historic Site would not have existed had it not been for the commercial activity they were to support for many years.

Perhaps a working train station in Fort Langley would do much more for tourism than a museum in a train station. Has anyone thought about returning the train station to commercial use – say, lobbying for the Rocky Mountaineer to stop in town?

The added advantage to a commercial use of the train station would be additional funds would then be available to maintain that valuable resource in Fort Langley for its original purpose.

Fort Langley has parking issues, and one of the best ways to keep the commercial area as an attractive pedestrian community for locals and tourists is to move parking underground.

Parking lots are not attractive, but tourists and local residents often arrive by car before they walk around the village. Until mass transportation is frequent and convenient, that trend will continue.

There are more things to worry about than whether or not another three-storey building is built on a vacant commercial lot in Fort Langley.

Christine Burdeniuk, Langley

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