The Coulter Berry building in Fort Langley…. How is it possible that residents of the Township continue to elect a council that displays such complete contempt for its residents?

Posted: August 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

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

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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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Comments
  1. Mike MacDonald says:

    Thanks Rick. This council is a disgrace. Residents count on planning and bylaws to try to plan their futures and where to live. When this council continues to ignore the people, the bylaws, and the facts on issue after issue it’s truly heartbreaking for Langley. Part by part they let(help) their Friends and campaign sponsors profit in the face of the bylaws and facts; while taxpayers (and landlords) pick up the costs of it all. A true disgrace.

  2. Dylan Fraser says:

    This was truly refreshing to read, Rick! It was finally nice to see something out there that is sticking to the facts of the matter! I am a long time Fort Langley resident who was shocked to hear that they were going to be building this large of a building. When I heard there was going to be an appeal by some of the other locals, I was glad to hear someone standing up to remind the council of the bylaws that were set to stop Fort Langley from losing its heritage appeal. I am absolutely horrified that the Township decided to ignore the voices of the 900 residents that have signed the petition to have this reviewed. I plan on sharing this with as many people as I can, and hopefully, we can let the mayor truly know what the “silent majority” really thinks.

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