Township council would like to hear from Fort Langley developer Eric Woodward, however they are not planning to extend a special invitation.
On March 5, council in a 6-2 decision, voted down Kim Richter’s motion to ask Woodward to present his concerns to them, after he cut down trees and boarded up some of the buildings he owns in the Fort Langley commercial core.
Woodward said in October 2017 that he would begin boarding up businesses, after he reached an impasse with the Township on future development he had planned for the village.
Only Richter and Coun. Blair Whitmarsh were in favour of the motion. Coun. David Davis was absent.
While most of council expressed interest in hearing from Woodward, they said that he should come to them of his own accord.
Coun. Bob Long said inviting Woodward to speak would set the wrong precedent.
“There’s a voluntary system here that delegations can come and speak to council,” Long said. “If we start inviting individuals to come because they have a beef with us, then there’s a big long list that we are going to have to make to invite everybody to the Township that has a concern.”
Coun. Angie Quaale said the situation feels “a bit like a game.”
“We don’t summon people to these chambers to talk about their problems and concerns when we want to hear from them. This door is always open,” she said.
“So I would strongly encourage Mr. Woodward to fill out the paperwork and make a delegation to council anytime he sees fit. A proper delegation, rather than manufacturing drama in the local papers and press through social media.”
Coun. Charlie Fox said that council should respect Woodward’s privacy.
“I talked to Mr. Woodward approximately three weeks ago. And he said to me not once, not twice, a minimum three times: I just want to be left alone. Just leave me alone,” Fox said.
Richter and Whitmarsh, however, believe this is a unique case.
“In terms of what’s happening right now, it’s not helping anybody,” Richter said. “We’ve got buildings that are boarded up in Fort Langley, and trees that are being cut in Fort Langley. And if this continues on the way it’s going, how long is it going to last for?
“I think by us extending an invitation, and opening the door to him to come and address those concerns, it’s a step in the direction of goodwill and hopefully resolving what could be a very long term and unpalatable situation for all.”
Whitmarsh said that normally, he would suggest council follow the proper process, however, “this is not a normal situation.”
“We have a particular person who, whether we like it or not, owns a significant portion of the commercial buildings in Fort Langley and is really choosing right now to do nothing that is illegal. In fact, he’s doing it all within our guidelines, and yet it makes it a bit of a farce in Fort Langley,” Whitmarsh said.
“It’s not the same as a neighbour who has a fence that’s a foot over from where it should be. This is a person who is holding much of the town of Fort Langley — one of the jewels of British Columbia — hostage. And I’m not happy with it.”