Archive for August, 2013

In my previous post, I outlined the individuals involved, their connections and the facts surrounding the whole issue of Fort Langley Heritage By-Laws; how and why they were strengthened and by who in 2004. Amazingly, the who of the past, are all of those involved in creating this EDIFICE to a guy named Eric Woodward who apparently believes that the rules apply to everyone BUT him. The problem with all that is that the majority of council seem to be eating his dirt (see sod turning) or drinking the same bathwater, whichever metaphor you wish to choose!

Well, all of that aside, the fight continues with Eric Woodward and Kurt Alberts dragging all of those within earshot out for a photo-op and sod turning. Now they claim to have an excavation permit but DO NOT have a building permit; only in the Township does the Council majority come out en masse for a photo-op on a project that doesn’t have a building permit!

So despite this fact of life (on any other development a building permit would be considered important) Mayor Jack Froese and Councilors Kim Richter, Grant Ward, Charlie Fox, Bev Dornan and Michelle Sparrow attended the sod turning. One has to wonder where the other two members of council were who have supported this outrage, namely Bob Long and Steve Ferguson – is it possible they got lost on the way to the celebration or non-event?

So let’s take a step back and ask ourselves why has this become such a major HOT BUTTON and divisive issue? Whether or not you support this project, I cannot urge you strongly enough to consider the following. Regardless of personalities and personal likes and/or dislikes of individuals involved consider whether you believe municipal development rules should apply differently depending on your wealth, connections and/or property holdings? Consider the following –

  • Treating everyone equally? – When you moved to Fort Langley or anywhere in the Township for that matter, did you not expect your elected Mayor and Municipal Council to follow and enforce the Official Community Plan (OCP), Neighborhood Plans and Zoning By-Laws that are in place? If there was to be a change did you not expect they would follow due process in making any changes i.e. New By-Laws (four readings) which would include a Public Hearing to inform the taxpayer and allow a legal opportunity for input?

It has become painfully obvious that there has been a questionable change of rules through a Heritage Alteration Permit. Is that legitimate? I have contacted many in the planning field and without exception they state this must have to go through a public rezoning process. Let’s not forget Jack Froese’s public comment on the result and outcome of Public Hearings. (Pete McMartin Column / Van. Sun)

  • Density Increase? – It is interesting when you look at the Township response to the court petition specifically to the question of density increase. The Township adamantly insists it is not an increase in density.

Not an increase? Let’s put it into simple common sense language and compare apples with apples – (A lot of numbers but think about it?)

  • Old IGA plus Old Hardware building – 13,977 sq. ft. (approx.)
  • NEW Coulter Berry Building (no underground) – 43,755 sq. ft.
  • Increase in square feet and percentage increase – +29,778 sq. ft. 213%

 

  • Permissible square footage (current zoning/no undergrnd) – 19,324 sq. ft.
  • NEW Coulter Berry Building (no underground) – 43,755 sq. ft.
  • Increase in square feet and percentage increase – +24,431 sq. ft. 126%

 

Put it another way, the application for the NEW Coulter Berry Building including underground parking is 65,918 sq. ft. vs. the old allowable square footage (current zoning) of 19,324 sq. ft. an increase of +46,594 sq. ft. 241%.

 

Despite the obvious common sense facts (above) that show much more than a substantial density increase; the owner in conversation with some, has admitted to an increase in density as well as the fact he promotes the need for density increase on his Facebook page by posting Vancouver newspaper clippings.

After all of this the Township continues to say it isn’t a density increase?

If you read the above numbers carefully it makes the case against this development in spades, however numbers can be glossed over. I would encourage all those who are interested to go down to Fort Langley and talk to the “Hands on Heritage Group” for a vivid picture on what we are talking about. It is an eye opener.

So what are we to conclude? Council thinks the residents are too stupid to understand?

  • Missing documents? – When reviewing the Petition Application, the responses and subsequent Affidavits regarding the Development Application Form there were a few items missing which MUST be included. The Development Application Form carries with it a page entitled “Development Application Requirements”. For Commercial, Industrial, Institutional, Multi-Family Residential and Comprehensive Development they provide a list of about 10 items that are required.

On the Development Application Form under Application Submission Requirements it states “Items listed are required at time of application submission. If any of the required documents listed below are not included, the application will not be accepted.” I guess it failed to say except Eric Woodward?

Aside from a couple of missing items the key missing document is –

Item K “Letter of Intent – Detailing the proposal including name/type of business and number of employees.”

It was missing. Now how do you spell density increase? Pretty convenient item to miss despite the fact the TOL says it must be submitted but it wasn’t which by TOL rules it WILL NOT be accepted!

  • Incorrect information? – The community brought to the attention of the Township that the developer had supplied incorrect information regarding the existing hardware building. This incorrect information was very important in that including the square footage of the two unlawful buildings it had impact on the calculations for space in the new building.

To be clear quoting from a James Goulden (BHT Lawyer) email to a Mr. Harold Whittell states “We acknowledge that the developers initial floor area calculations for the Frontier Hardware building wrongly included the two unlawful storage structures which had already been removed from the Development lands. However, the Developer’s latest floor area calculations now exclude those two unlawful storage structures, and the Township has proceeded on the basis of the corrected figures.”

The Township subsequently verified that the allegations were correct. The correct process should have been to have the developer “amend” the plans and then have them brought before the same “process” as the original application. The review by council or public process was not done.

  • The developer caught out – The developer was still trying to claim the gross floor area of the two unlawful storage buildings AFTER he was caught out.

The admission (above) was only after the community had to go about proving that they were actually GONE and what they looked like before demolition. Who was responsible for submitting the original plans which included the square footage of the two unlawful buildings?

So where does it go from here? The next stop is the B.C. Supreme Court Application for a Judicial Review filed by the “Society of Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development” on September 9th in Chilliwack.

In my view this issue is symptomatic of a much bigger issue in the Township of Langley. It speaks to the very reasons I ran for Mayor and the very reason I will continue to shine a light on the goings-on in development and property deals throughout our community.

I can tell you despite what you may have been told about me, (there was a good deal of character assassination) I lived up to what I said I would do in office and we accomplished a lot. Most important, I do not apologize. Anybody with any reasoned amount of life experience could not serve three years in the Mayor’s office and not connect the many dots. It was a steep learning curve about what really goes on, that is what drives me to expose the wrong doing in our community.

So I was ecstatic when this citizen group stepped forward and put their money where their mouth is. There is nothing for them to gain personally other than standing up for the community in which they live. The name calling, intimidation, bullying and more aimed at those in support of this legal action is beyond the pale, Stop and ask yourself THE very key simple question from both sides of the issue – who is gaining anything personally from this action? It certainly is not the members of this society – now Eric Woodward, Kurt Alberts and the other hangers on, that is for you to decide. We owe these citizens a big thank you; remember this initiative has come at a significant financial cost to all of them, no benefit other than protecting their community!

A Special message to Council members – While there is no secret about our past relationship I want to urge each and every one of you to dig down and have the courage to come forward asking for a sober second thought. Surely, you can’t believe that this is a positive addition to Fort Langley. The mass of this building is completely inappropriate within Fort Langley in the context of the OCP and surrounding properties.

There is NO second chance, once a building permit is issued you will have changed the character, the look, the density and the heritage of Fort Langley FOREVER! This is not overstating the issue. Remember it is the Birthplace of B.C. and we all have a moral responsibility to protect the values that so many residents have put into this community. Do you want this outrage to form a part of your elected record and what you will be remembered for?

All of us taxpayers and residents of the Township of Langley, not just Fort Langley, can only hope each one of you will search your conscience and do the right thing. As I said earlier, a sober second thought would be a great place to start!!! Do it now, before it is too late!

RG

I am working on a few posts at present that I believe are of significant concern to Township of Langley Residents, come back often for news of interest to Township residents.

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, stay involved and VOTE!!!

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How is it possible that Council passed the Statewood application for the Coulter Berry building which did not comply with the OCP or the Heritage Conservation area, was turned down by TOL staff in Heritage and Planning, and had a 950 name petition against it (only 2,500 in Fort Langley) and 2 to 1 Public Hearing speakers against… It was passed 7-1 WHAT?

OH I forgot, Mayor Froese doesn’t make decisions based on Public Hearing results or petitions, in his own words, he has to consider all of those who don’t attend? What? They are all in favor of the project? Mayor Froese and all of his councilors (except David Davis who doesn’t fit in with this group) should be called to account! So we continue with these phony, contemptible public hearings that are being offered as an excuse for public consultation? Members of our Municipal Council don’t know the meaning of the word “consultation”, nothing has changed. I said during the election campaign that Jack Froese as Mayor would be Kurt Alberts LIGHT, which is exactly what he has been. What is that saying Jack and Kurt, “Just go with the process”. Isn’t another way of putting that; make it appear like we care? It is interesting having the benefit and convenience of text messaging during meetings, isn’t it?

  • Before we get into the facts of this issue, you have to understand the lay of the land ie Whos who? The kicker! “Connect the Dots” – Eric Woodward is the owner of the Coulter Berry building and owner of a substantial property portfolio in Fort Langley, a Township of Langley appointee to the Heritage Advisory Committee, a Township of Langley appointee (Co-Chair) of the Community Participation, Infrastructure and Environment Advisory Committee, President of the Fort Langley BIA, fellow resident with Jack Froese in Bedford Landing, and a donor of $2,000 to Jack Froese in the last election! OH I forgot, Eric Woodward’s consultant for this project is Kurt Alberts, a former Mayor and supporter of Mayor Jack Froese in the last election. Very strong supporters of Eric Woodward’s efforts, aside from the majority of the current and past council supporters are former councilors Howie Vickburg and Jordan Bateman (all strongly connected to and sat under Kurt Alberts as Mayor). Isn’t it interesting how that works?  

It is important to note that three other builders adapted their new buildings in Fort Langley to the OCP. Why Special Treatment? Only in the Township of Langley you say! Are you surprised?

(I came back from holidays early to report further on the facts!)

A good deal of investigation was needed to present some interesting facts that the average taxpayer should know with respect to this issue – It is interesting reading and should be worthy of considerable concern to taxpayers. Please Read On….

On June 7, 2004 a report was presented to council, file # 04-150 prepared by Paul Crawford who is STILL the Long Range Planner for the Township of Langley.

It is a report that recommends an amendment to BY-Law 2500 – Section 104.5 covering height of buildings in Fort Langley’s Heritage Conservation Area. The amendment was to strengthen the wording to offer stronger protection against developments that would try to circumvent the bylaw and build above 29.5 feet or two stories.

On August 23rd of 2004 at a regular evening meeting of council, bylaw 4292 (report 04-150) was brought forward for final adoption.  Councilor Howie Vickberg moved it and councilor Kim Richter seconded the motion. It was carried unanimously by the mayor and ALL council members. The mayor at the time was Kurt Alberts, and in addition to Kim Richter who seconded the motion, present councilors, Bob Long, Grant Ward and Steve Ferguson all voted in favor of this bylaw amendment to strengthen the height restrictions in Fort Langley

Fast forward to today. Kurt Alberts is now a spokesperson for the 43.5 foot Coulter Berry development, gushing over its virtues. Ex councilor Howie Vickberg is a regular commentator on the “We support Coulter Berry Face Book site”, he has taken it upon himself to applaud the Coulter Berry Development, while slamming the people trying to defend the very bylaw he brought forward on August 23, 2004. Unusual, yes, anywhere but in the Township – Does it appear that all that matters in the Township is, who is the proponent and what is their connection? You can’t make this stuff up.

You have to wonder, why only 9 years later, six of the people that brought in this added protection are now in favor of allowing a building that is 43.5 feet high and will tower over every existing building in the same area?

By-Law 2500, section 100, administration height of buildings and structures, 104.5. (2 stories / 29.5 feet). Noted beside 104.5 are By-Laws #3205 and #4292, both amendments passed to strengthen the wording. This IS NOT a guideline, IT IS a bylaw that was put in place specifically to preserve the heritage character of Fort Langley. It is important to note that Township planning staff still very much support this bylaw, as witnessed by the report to council by senior planner Chris Laing in his report to council on the Coulter Berry development. Township staff was not in favor of the Coulter Berry project proceeding as presented. The report stated this clearly several times.

Other interesting facts? The Face Book support site for the development headlines a quote from Robert Inwood extolling the heritage virtues of the development. The site further states that Mr. Inwood is the “author” of the Fort Langley heritage guidelines. Now let us get the facts straight, to say the least they are playing fast and loose with the truth. The authorship of the guidelines was a collaboration of Mr. Inwood and many others, including Donald Luxton, Fred Pepin, Tom Annandale, Grace Muller, Bays and Bob Blackhall, Alice Johnson, Gloria Doubleday, Elaine Horricks and so many other dedicated heritage people. I am sure Mr. Inwood would be embarrassed to hear that he is given such lofty credit for the guidelines that were put together combining several studies, beginning in the mid-eighties with input from so many dedicated people.

The Kicker – The important part and what is not stated is that Mr. Inwood was hired by the developer sometime after the council meeting of November 19th, 2012. Is there anything wrong with that, no, but in light of the fact they are using his name in promotion, it is a fact they should not be silent on. Extolling the virtues of his development is an opinion, his opinion, nothing more. It isn’t an independent opinion. So the fact that Mr. Inwood might be pleased with his own work should not be a surprise. However, it is also important to point out that none of Mr. Inwood’s work changed the height, form, rhythm, scale or sheer mass of the building.

Not being a planner or engineer, it has been difficult for me to understand how the sheer size, form and overall mass of the Coulter Berry building has not increased the density of use of this lot, as is claimed, so consider the following:

  • The land in question is 24,156 square feet.
  • With the existing zoning in place, lot coverage (with underground parking) allows a maximum 60% of lot coverage.
  • Given By-law 2500, height section 104.5 that limits any building to two stories, the math allows a TOTAL building size of 28,987 square feet.
  • Lot coverage of this proposal covers 67%
  • The Coulter Berry Development is over 44,000 square feet
  • Plus 22,163 square feet of underground parking /amenity area.
  • Allowable density is a mathematical calculation of space for the building density allowable.
  • It is quite clear that if the above mathematical calculation holds true, the Coulter Berry building is much larger than the existing bylaws and zoning would allow.
  • Coulter Berry received a setback relaxation to allow it to encroach on the neighboring property (Beatniks Restaurant) to within nine INCHES of their building.

With the mixed use proposed for this development and by looking at plans on the developer’s website, the following info clearly shows not only a density increase, but a significant density increase.

  • This same parcel of land housed the old Fort Hardware store and the old IGA building before it burned down.
  • It would be fair to assume that the Hardware building would have had a total of 4 toilets. The IGA would likely also have had a total of 4 toilets for a total of 8 on this property.
  • Based on the drawings on the developer’s website, the Coulter Berry building has a total of 41 toilets and 2 urinals. Somehow this alone would equate to a density of use increase to anyone with an ounce of common sense.

The most controversial and often “misinformed” part of this development is the parking concerns. Without debating the history as to why developments in Fort Langley are only required to provide half of the commercial parking than in other areas of Langley, only the actual facts relating to this development will be discussed.

From the TOL report and the developer’s website, the following can be confirmed.

  • The development if built anywhere else in a C-2 zone in Langley would require 144 parking spots.
  • Due to the aforementioned peculiarity of Fort Langley, the requirements are cut down to a total of 67 parking spots. The developer is providing 67 spots.
  • However and BUT– it is important to note that of the 67 spots, 30 of them are for the specific use of the tenants of the building. They are behind gates and fencing, not for public use.
  • Of the remaining 37 spots, 3 are designated as “carpool” only.
  • That leaves a net of 34 spots total, 25 underground and 9 surface spots for ALL of the customers of a large 5,000 plus sq.ft.  2 level restaurant plus a mezzanine, 9 retail shops and 10 plus offices.

With only a net 34 real public parking spots added (not 67 as they like to promote), the already parking shortfall in Fort Langley will be worse, not better. This building, if it manages to find tenants due to lack of parking, will compound the problem. The developer also states that each of the commercial retail units (CRU) on the first floor have “stubbed water and drainage so that any CRU can accommodate a kitchen”. Imagine the increased “density of use” if even half of these CRU’s become coffee shops, juice bars, bakery’s, or sandwich shops. The number of employees and visitors would exponentially increase the density of use.

As I said at the start, this development was not supported by Township of Langley planning staff. It was not supported by the Township of Langley Heritage Advisory Committee. It was not supported by the Langley Heritage Society, a non- governmental society whose only purpose is to protect the community’s heritage interests. Furthermore a petition was signed by over 950 people opposing the development. Important to note that over 600 of them had/have Fort Langley address’s.

With all this in mind, it is hard to understand why the mayor and council would not listen to the many voices that asked for a compromise on the development for it to adhere to the existing bylaws, heritage guidelines and the community’s wishes, like everyone else.

It is time for the community to stand up for Langley and let the mayor and council know that they are our representatives, and should be acting responsibly on our behalf. If the mayor is listening to his version of the “silent majority”, maybe it is time he hears the very real actual VOCAL MAJORITY that is not happy with so many poorly made council decisions being made since they took office.

Well, this proposal was approved, but the fight is not over. – While I am dead against this Mayor and Council who have made an art form out of ignoring the public (you know, those of us that vote and pay property taxes) it is important to know the facts before you draw a conclusion. That is why I have presented the facts that came from my investigation.

In my opinion we are very fortunate because we have some residents within us that have shown the will to say NO WAY, certainly not without a fight against wrong doing! The fight is on!

The “Society of Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development” has launched a petition in the Supreme Court of British Columbia under the “Judicial Review Procedure Act” requesting Supreme Court approval for an injunction and court proceeding to hear arguments and render a decision, hopefully favorable to the opinion of the majority in the Township of Langley. This Supreme Court Judicial Review application is scheduled to be heard in the Chilliwack Supreme Court, 46085 Yale Rd. Chilliwack B.C. at 10:00 AM Sept. 9th.

This group has put their money where their mouth is despite and in the face of abuse, bullying, name calling and much much more. This abuse is not surprising to me. I experienced three years of bullying, intimidation and character assassination tactics for which I was not going to capitulate. In this case it is coming from the obvious corner of special interest, by a few individuals who are showing themselves as the classless individuals they are in the face of this community opposition. It is unfortunate that there are some in our society that still don’t understand that you can agree to disagree.

It must be made very clear and it was in a recent definitive Langley Times article, these people have stressed they ARE NOT against development! They are asking for municipal by-laws, processes procedures and decisions to be recognized and adhered to, not attacked and changed through feeble and unwarranted variances whenever it suites the wishes of a chosen few!

Isn’t all of this wonderful in a democratic society? Here we go again; the so-called establishment of special interests in the Township expects everyone to fall into line.

Well, finally we have those within us that are saying no way, not without a hell of a fight!

Unknown to most, this type of back room activity is not unusual in the Township. It is and has been the norm for many years. I would ask anyone reading this to investigate the facts for yourself, ask those directly involved, get active in your community to stop this insult to taxpayers. It has to stop!

As this very true saying goes:

“If you don’t stand for something, you will stand for anything”

We have stood for anything for far too long in our community!!!!

RG

_______________________________________________________________________________________

I am working on a few posts at present that I believe are of significant concern to Township of Langley Residents, come back often for news of interest to Township residents.

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, stay involved and VOTE!!!

Share this BLOG; forward it to your friends, neighbors and relatives!

To comment on this post – Click on this Post, top left hand corner under recent posts.