Let's fill the Fort Langley hole
Editor: After following the sad Coulter Berry saga, it has become clear to me that in essence it is about a very admirable building that a sincere (but misguided) developer wanted to build in the absolutely wrong place, and a mayor and majority of a council that, for some reason, seemed hell bent on destroying the goofy feel-good small town atmosphere of ‘downtown’ Fort Langley by ignoring heritage guidelines and setting a powerful precedent of ‘spot zoning’.
Together they hurried, in spite of an impending lawsuit, to create a big hole that they obviously hoped would make the whole project unstoppable and irreversible. It must have been clear to anyone with a bit of common sense that this project was totally out of scale with the surrounding heritage area. Ask the film crews that regularly clutter the streets of our downtown core, or the tourists that choose it over plenty of more modern destinations why they are here, and not in one of the many uniform neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland.
It is tragic that community plans are having so much trouble in dealing with concepts of scale, character and quality of locations. Establishing maximum heights or quibbling about a few feet higher or lower doesn’t create these qualities. In the town centres of older cultures, buildings of vastly different heights can co-exist harmoniously. Fort Langley has a bit of critical historical mass that should be protected from the tsunami of destructive progress.
The Coulter Berry building could have been famous elsewhere, but where it is planned with the scheming of the majority of council, it will only awaken the sleeping tiger of Fort Langley’s rightful indignation. Township literature promoting other developments states that buildings should be designed and sited so that their mass does not restrict sun penetration to roadways, sidewalks and adjacent land uses; and that in development of village centres, form and character can be controlled through design guidelines to ensure that they develop into small-scale, pedestrian-oriented ‘main streets’ in keeping with the rural character of the area.
In the case of Fort Langley, either the Township speaks with forked tongue, or there is a serious disconnect between staff and politicians. Perhaps Langley is becoming so big that it cannot see anymore from a small town perspective.
The heritage hole in Fort Langley is for me a monument to the hubris of a developer who was trying to see what he could get away with, and the majority of Township council. I, for one, don’t want it to be covered up quickly by that building. Lest we forget.
I propose that the citizens of the Fort who care about elements of the past fill it slowly, by hand, one weekend at a time, and see what will grow on that footprint. I have a couple of wheelbarrows. It would be a nice way to get to know some more neighbours over something communal and positive.