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Coulter Berry debate resumes

Pedestrians walk through the sidewalk scaffolding that surrounds the excavated Coulter Berry site in Fort Langley.   - Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times
Pedestrians walk through the sidewalk scaffolding that surrounds the excavated Coulter Berry site in Fort Langley.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times

The debate over the revised Coulter Berry building proposal began in front of a nearly-full Township council chambers Monday night.

More than 100 people, most of them opposed to the building, were present when a majority of councillors voted to send the new design to a public hearing on Monday, March 10 at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

The vote to give the proposed project and re-zoning initial approval before it goes to a public hearing was passed 7-2, with Councillors David Davis and Bob Long opposed.

Davis said he likes the building, but not in Fort Langley, and he doesn’t like “tailor-making” the three proposed bylaws that would re-zone the site to allow a three-storey building and alter the Fort Langley Building Facade Design Guidelines to say they are there to “assist but not bind” council.

“Why are we changing three bylaws to suit this one development?” Davis asked, generating  applause from the audience and a call for order from Mayor Jack Froese.

“This is a debate among council, not entertainment for you,” Froese said.

Councillor Bob Long said the project should be sent back to the developer to trim its height at the corner of Mavis and Glover, where the building is highest.

“It’s too big, too tall, and it’s too bulky,” Long said.

Other council members rejected the suggestion, with Councillor Steve Ferguson calling it “out of order” and Councillor Grant Ward saying “this has to get off the ground.”

It will be the second time the controversial Fort Langley development at the corner of Glover Road and Mavis Avenue has come up for approval.

The first time, opponents convinced a B.C. Supreme Court judge to overturn the approval in October.

Justice Joel Groves said the Township violated its own regulations when it approved a heritage alteration permit (HAP) for the project that allowed construction of a building that was bigger than the maximum size allowed in the heritage conservation area of downtown Fort Langley.

The judge said the project could not be approved by a vote to make an exception to the size restrictions, but it could be approved if the size limits were increased by re-zoning the property.

Groves wrote that council could legally change the zoning of downtown Fort Langley to approve bigger buildings like Coulter Berry “through the usual process of public hearings and public consultations.”

That is what developer Eric Woodward ended up doing in January, applying for re-zoning and making some adjustments to the look and size of the building in the process.

The second attempt at approval of Coulter Berry is expected to mean another lengthy public hearing process and continued opposition from the Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development and the Langley Heritage Association.

Harold Whittell, a  director of the Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development, has warned that any attempt by the Township to spot zone the site would be “vehemently opposed.”

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