Fort Langley residents display admirable levels of interest

Thursday’s newspaper will give full details of the public hearing into the Coulter Berry Building in Fort Langley. The hearing took place Monday night, and was expected to be lengthy.

The Times has received many letters and online comments about this building, since it was first announced several months ago.

It has clearly captured interest in Fort Langley. It needs to be said that village residents are probably the most passionate people in Langley Township when it comes to matters in their area, and this level of community involvement is commerndable.

Lengthy public hearings involving Fort Langley are nothing new. Back in the late 1990s, a public hearing on industrial use of the the McDonald Cedar mill property took several days to complete. The depth of opposition was somewhat surprising, given that the property had been used for industrial purposes for decades. In the end, Township council turned the proposal down, and that eventually set the stage for what is now Bedford Landing on the same site.

Of course, that land use proposal also received plenty of criticism, both in its initial stages and in later fine tuning by ParkLane, the developers of the property.

There have been other hot topics in Fort Langley over the years, and all of them have undoubtedly helped to make the village a better place. The addition of new homes at Bedford Landing, the new Lee’s Market, which will soon open and a wide variety of improvements to commercial buildings have all served to make the Fort more vibrant. The elimination of through traffic, with the closing of the Albion Ferry in 2009, has had an enormously beneficial effect of the community.

I’m an outside observer and frequent visitor to Fort Langley, which remains one of my top three destinations for a daytime excursion. This is how I see the development of Fort Langley to the present, and how the Coulter Berry Building and other proposals will fit into the village.

First, the new buildings will bring in more businesses — particularly restaurants, which are in short supply. They will also provide significant additional parking, which is one of the Fort’s greatest drawbacks, particularly when there is a special event going on.

Second, all the new buildings will continue the Fort tradition of having independent businesses, rather than outlets of larger chains. This is an admirable and almost unique attribute.

Third, there is nothing in any of the proposals which indicates that Fort Langley is being gentrified, and longtime residents and businesses are being forced out. This is a frequent complaint, but it isn’t true. High housing prices have definitely made it more challenging for a first-time buyer to come to Fort Langley, but all property owners benefit from that.

Langley Township council must weigh all the concerns raised, but in the end, the most important goal should be to make Fort Langley a more livable and complete community.

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