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Coulter Berry compromise rejected by council, developer

Both the builder of the stalled Coulter Berry building and Langley Township council have rejected an offer to restart construction by the people who won a stop-work court order against the project.

The deal proposed by the Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development (FLRSD) would allow the builder to keep an underground parkade in return for agreeing to trim the size of the building from three to two stories.

It would include tax breaks under municipal heritage revitalization guidelines to make the parkade “economically viable” according to an email from the group to the Township, which described the proposal as a “win/win” that would end the court fight.

“The hope is that the developer would welcome a solution that offers economic viability and a timely restart to the project,” the FLRSD email stated.

“The Township should welcome the opportunity to see the restart of the project and an end to litigation.”

Council said no at its Monday afternoon meeting, directing its lawyers to send a letter of refusal to the group.

“Tell them we’re not interested,” Councillor Kim Richter said.

Councillor Steve Ferguson said the proposal was not a win-win, but a “one-win.”

Councillor Charlie Fox said the proposal was “not realistic” and would cost taxpayers too much.

Developer Eric Woodward was equally opposed.

He posted an online analysis of the proposal at http://www.coulterberry.com/facts/winlose that puts the potential cost of the proposal to Langley taxpayers at $3,603,250.

That total amount includes lost tax revenue from the third floor of the building over the 75-year life of the structure, and the cost of tax incentives to make the $3 million parkade viable.

“I would never ask taxpayers to pay for what the private sector can accomplish,” Woodward told The Times.

“Commercial property is supposed to help keep residential property taxes lower, not increase them,” Woodward added.

On top of that, he estimates his company would lose $1,546,000.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge halted work on the Fort Langley project last year, ruling the Township violated its own regulations when it approved a heritage alteration permit (HAP) for the project.

The permit allowed construction of building that was bigger than the maximum size allowed in the heritage conservation area of downtown Fort Langley, the judge declared.

Under the Township bylaw, a heritage alteration permit allows council to “vary” the restrictions on buildings in a conservation area, but it does not allow bigger buildings, he said.

Council has approved an appeal court challenge of the decision.

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