Coulter Berry public hearing to continue Tuesday

People began lining up to register for speaking at the Coulter Berry public hearing several hours before it started Monday night. - Dan Ferguson / Langley Times
People began lining up to register for speaking at the Coulter Berry public hearing several hours before it started Monday night.
— image credit: Dan Ferguson / Langley Times

A public hearing on a revised Coulter Berry proposal wrapped up its first evening Monday night after hearing more than 130 speakers for and against the revived proposal to build a three-storey building in the heart of downtown Fort Langley.

The hearing adjourned at 11 p.m. with about 30 people remaining on the list of speakers.

It will resume Tuesday night in Township council chambers at 7 p.m.

So far, supporters have outnumbered opponents by a substantial margin.

The people who want it built have praised the building for being a quality design that will add much-needed housing and underground parking to the Fort Langley core, while opponents have said Coulter Berry would be a great project anywhere but  Fort Langley, because it will destroy the small-town feel of the community.

"I need Coulter Berry," said supporter Fred Jackson, a disabled man who likes the design because it includes wheelchair-friendly suites.

"Most towns would beg for this building," said another supporter, Kevin Speilman.

James Hansen called the building "the most [environmentally] sustainable building Langley has ever seen."

Elaine Brewer-White, a supporter, was one of several speakers to say the issue has divided the community.

"There has been so much animosity in my town ... I hate all the division that's going on." said Brewer-White, who said people need to regain their sense of humor.

Another Coulter Berry supporter, Laura Murphy said "It beaks my heart that the town is so divided now," adding "let's just be people and love each other again."

Chris Roper said hostility has reached a point where he and his business partner "felt negatively impacted just for speaking out for Coulter Berry."

Supporter Darcy Rezac complained that opponents were "misleading the public" in a recent anti-Coulter Berry newspaper ad image that he said inflated the size of the building by 25 per cent to make it look bigger than the community heritage hall.

Opponents of Coulter Berry blasted the project as a "monolith," "obnoxious" and a "monstrosity" that would set a precedent leading to other oversize structures.

"We're poised at the top of a slippery slope," said Lynda Lightfoot.

"It's too damn high and it takes up too much space," Bob Armstrong said.

A 1400-name petition was filed against the project by one person and there were hints by another that the attempt to resurrect the project could result in a court action similar to the one that halted work on the building for exceeding size limits for the area.

In making that ruling, the judge declared the city could legally approve the project through a rezoning, which the developer has applied for.

Harold Whittell, one of the residents who won that case, filed a transcript of the court decision at the hearing, saying the height limits "are still applicable" and cannot be legally amended.

Many of those against the project were concerned it will damage the heritage character of a town several described as the "birthplace of B.C." and an important historic site.

"We like Fort Langley the way it is," Mike McManus said.

Unlike the Brookswood public hearing the previous week, where an overflow crowd forced a hasty rescheduling to a larger venue, Township staff were able to provide video and audio links outside council chambers in the fourth-floor foyer and on the second floor.


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