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2013 - The Year in Review: A bumpy year for development
This week, The Times is taking a look back at the events that helped shape the past year.
From the widely unexpected results of May's provincial election (and its repercussions for the Langleys) to the people we lost — both pioneers, who lived long and fruitful lives and a pair of young men who were taken too soon — 2013 was a year of ups and downs.
A trio of fatalities made 2013 one of the worst years for fire deaths in recent memory.
The Township meanwhile, found itself at the centre of two major development controversies in 2013, while the criminal element didn't appear to distinguish between the two municipalities.
And a Langley father of three took desperate measures in his fight to stay in Canada.
Of course, it wasn't all gloom and doom, as tens of thousands once again gathered in Langley City's downtown core for the annual Good Times Cruise In, the annual Langley Has Talent competition helped a young mother and aspiring opera singer move one step closer to realizing her dream and a group of children did their part for the environment by planting saplings at the Derek Doubleday Arboretum.
All Eyes on Glen Valley
In terms of development in Langley, 2013 was not a year when things were destined to run smoothly.
The two most contentious issues were centered on the north side of Langley and concerned a commercial building and a forest.
In January, Langley Township council approved the controversial sale of four parcels of Township-owned land in Glen Valley — a defeat for local environmental groups which were campaigning to preserve the property and forest contained within its boundaries.
The Township said the sale would help to fund a new community centre, swimming pool and ice rink in Aldergrove.
However, the first planned sale was cancelled due to pressure from a campaign launched by the residents’ group Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF), and the forest located on the land was designated a 25.75 acre municipal natural park in October.
The remainder of the property had been purchased by Trinity Western University in September, using money donated by the Blaauw family.
Under the terms of the agreement between the Township and TWU, the only buildings allowed to be built on the property are those that enhance the use of the conservation area on the property, and the Township and general public will have access to the site for environmental research, education and recreational purposes.
Much Ado About Coulter Berry
Around the time the Glen Valley issue was being resolved, another was gaining momentum.
Work on the controversial Coulter Berry building in Fort Langley — which had begun in August — was halted in late October, following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that found the project improperly altered the density restrictions in downtown Fort Langley.
The Township, which issued a heritage alteration permit to allow construction of the three-storey building, has announced it will appeal the ruling.
The permit, opposed by a group of Fort Langley residents and the Langley Heritage Association, allowed the project to exceed development guidelines for the area, which falls within the Heritage Conservation Area of the Fort Langley Community Plan.
The completed building would be 14.5 feet over the height limit and would exceed usual lot coverage limitations.
Concerned residents maintained it would set a dangerous precedent for future development that would erode Fort Langley’s unique character.
Combo project nearing completion
The Roberts Bank rail corridor’s combo project crossed the Langley Bypass at the beginning of 2013, creating headaches for local drivers with construction continuing throughout the year.
The project includes the building of three railway overpasses along Surrey’s eastern edge, where it borders Langley City, on 192 Street, 54 Avenue and 196 Street.
The project is part of a larger campaign to reduce traffic delays along the Roberts Bank rail corridor that handles container and coal trains to and from the Deltaport terminal near Ladner.
The initiative includes improvements to roads and traffic signals as far north as 196 Street and 64 Avenue.
Among the upgrades will be a system of warning signs to advise drivers when a train is approaching a level crossing to give them an opportunity to divert to an overpass.
The overpasses are scheduled to open this year.
No need for speed
Just as they were getting revved up, race enthusiasts’ hopes for the revival of the Langley Speedway in Campbell Valley park hit a dead end in July, when Metro Vancouver directors rejected a proposal to let stock cars race once again at the long-closed track.
Most members of Metro’s environment and parks committee felt racing would be at odds with enjoyment of nature and use of the area by horse riders and other park users.
The Langley Speedway Society originally proposed racing at a restored speedway a maximum of 14 days per year, with the facility acting as a multi-purpose venue for concerts and other events for the remainder of the year.