The fight over the current Coulter Berry Building….. It is all about preserving our Community Plan, our Heritage and the Heritage Conservation Area! Your on-going support is essential!….and More…..

Posted: February 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

Fort Langley has developed a unique and very worthy reputation both regionally and internationally thanks to a vast number of community heritage activists over many years. The Heritage Conservation Area is a deliberate protection put into Municipal Legislation years ago to do exactly that, PROTECT THE HERITAGE LOOK; it is not something that can be bargained away on a whim to someone with significant financial resources, regardless of how many properties they own. Our community is NOT FOR SALE!

So Eric Woodward, who now owns over half of Fort Langley’s Commercial Core, is hosting:

  • Open House for ANYONE interested
  • Thursday February 20th
  • Fort Langley Community Hall
  • 7:00PM to discuss his Coulter Berry project.

This is a great idea because given his direct mail letter and reply card sent to all residents, a challenge to his version of the facts are in order. It’s content, in my opinion is somewhat less than truthful (I am being polite). I know Eric is really looking for a love-in but I would encourage as many as possible to attend and ask the tough questions.

So lets separate fact from fiction, it is important for our community to know the facts – The following are extracts from Eric Woodward’s community letter. (EW – Eric Woodward)

  • EW – “….a lawsuit against the Township of Langley regarding a perceived approval process error….”
  • FACT – It wasn’t perceived at all – the Heritage Alteration Permit (HAP) was set aside on the basis that the Township improperly varied density, contrary to the Local Government Act.
  • EW – “I sincerely believe that Township staff chose the correct review and approval process for Coulter Berry, that Justice Groves made a mistake….”
  • FACT – Regardless of an individual’s wealth, or the number of properties they might own, in this country we are governed by the rule of law, not what any individual might believe or think – thank goodness! The vast majority of the public and the legal community do not share your opinion. Please read the reports done of Justice Groves decision by two large legal firms – Young Anderson and Stuart McDannold Stuart. Both of these reports support Justice Groves findings. It recognizes the clarity this decision will bring to others when dealing with issues of density in developments.
  • EW – “At a cost of $3 million, an underground parkade just isn’t economically viable in a two story building,…”
  • FACT – There is no question a parkade would not be viable in a two story building, however who’s idea was it to have an underground parkade?  As far as parking is concerned, the Township have been absent for years in developing an up-to-date Community Plan which would cover the issue of much needed parking. That could come about through a progressive program of Community Amenity Contributions (CACs), which Mr. Woodward as a developer would be asked to contribute into – the same as Vancouver and a number of other Cities and Municipalities utilize for the benefit of their communities. But then again, the Township of Langley has never been known to be progressive in assisting taxpayers.
  • EW – “Of course, in matters of development, not everyone agrees. I respect that.”
  • FACT – Respect? The letters to the editor and Coulter Berry Facebook campaign launched through the Coulter Berry Facebook site as well as the open and sometimes subliminal bullying tactics by you and supporters of Coulter Berry? This is a funny way to show respect for an opposing view of fellow citizens. Respect, I don’t think you can spell the word!
  • EW – “There are other three story buildings within the commercial area… The Fort Langley Official Community Plan … permits three story buildings…”
  • FACT – There are two existing 3-storey buildings within the commercial core. I believe you will find that these buildings were approved prior to the guidelines enacted by Council in 1993 limiting the height of the buildings to 29.5 feet and two storys. The Coulter Berry building sits within The Heritage Conservation Area which I am sure you know is designed to preserve historic interest. It does NOT permit three story buildings. Another very interesting fact – In 2004, Council, including Mayor Kurt Alberts and Council members Howie Vickburg, Bob Long, Steve Ferguson, Kim Richter and Grant Ward unanimously approved a reinforcement bylaw. It limited height and scale of new buildings within the Heritage Conservation Area. This action was designed to clarify the height limitations within the Heritage Conservation Area. (NOTE – All of the above, those on Council and those who are not now on Council are NOW IN FAVOR OF WHAT THEY WERE THEN OPPOSED TO. WHY?)
  • EW – “In my opinion, a lawsuit started 7 ½ months after Council approval, well after construction has started, has little to do with process concerns….”
  • FACT – The Mayor and a number of Council members were at your ground breaking event on August 20th, 2013. Photos show an undisturbed construction site. No Heritage Hole! A very important fact, the court petition against the Township was entered July 5th, 2013, 6 weeks prior to your sod turning. It is public knowledge that you, Statewood Properties and the Township of Langley were sent a letter Jan. 31st, 2013 serving notice of a possible legal challenge, as well as an April 4th, 2013 meeting with Township senior staff and James Goulden, Township lawyer to discuss the legal opinion about density issue.
  • EW – “It is not gambling to finalize the design and begin construction of an approved building that many residents support and want to see completed.”
  • FACT – Wrong Eric, it is gambling to start construction BEFORE a building permit, thereby official approval, is issued and knowing a Court Petition had been launched weeks prior to your construction start. As it turns out you should have held back to get a firm decision because your building was illegally approved.

And finally this from Eric Woodward…. A suggestion that “we now face the possibility of the Coulter Berry site remaining as it is today for many years”…. “or delay a re-approval until next year, the Coulter Berry proposal will financially collapse.”

Eric’s message of holding the community of Fort Langley hostage with threats that this construction site (Heritage Hole) could be a lasting fixture on Fort Langley’s landscape, if approval is not given, is reason enough for a rejection of this proposal.

You see Eric, while it might be hard for you to understand (I don’t know why?) RESPECT cannot be demanded it can only be EARNED!!!

So far, in the Township of Langley, you are batting 1000 due to your actions!

I know it is not standard practice in The Township of Langley BUT wealth and/or the amount of property you own does not provide you with any special privileges where most residents and I come from. I would only suggest to those supporting this Coulter Berry proposal – if supporting non-compliance of the law is OK then who gets to decide what rules and/or bylaws can be ignored? Your Council? The Provincial Government? The Federal Government? I would suggest in a democracy like ours there is a process to change a bylaw. Unfortunately our Council chose a route of convenience (they thought) that has cost you and I, the taxpayer what must be over $100,000 in legal fees, but apparently that is not over. Is an appeal next?

Eric, as a local resident who claims to want to make Fort Langley a better place I would strongly suggest compliance and working with the wishes of the vast majority of residents. If the options available to build Coulter Berry in keeping within the present OCP, Guidelines and bylaws are not workable you should seriously consider selling the property to another developer.

Notice to all residents of the Township of Langley – It appears, as suggested earlier, that the Township will be appealing the B.C. Supreme Court Ruling despite numerous legal and professional opinions that the judge got it right. It also appears that despite the appeal by the Township of Langley, they will also be processing the new application from Eric Woodward. This application must include a zoning change which will require 1st and 2nd reading, a Public Hearing, 3rd reading and 4th reading. It is very important for residents of the Township to remain vigilant. This fight is far from over!!!

The kind of statements being thrown out by Eric Woodward are nothing more than threats and intimidation. As I said earlier, if Eric Woodward is not prepared to abide by the rules and bylaws of the Township of Langley, sell the property to someone who will. The day that the Township of Langley capitulates to threats by this developer or any other is the day our community has lost it’s self-respect and integrity. It would be the day everything is for sale in our community. Regardless of how this community has been managed in the past, it must come to an end for the good of all of it’s residents. I will not stand by and let this happen, I hope you are with me!

Are our taxpayers going to stand for this? Remember the old saying –

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

More NEWS

Brookswood – Fernridge Community Plan – NEW Open House  – Please attend!!!!!

In typical fashion, the Township of Langley have structured a top down process in it’s attempt at developing a NEW Brookswood / Fernridge Community Plan. The concerns expressed by the majority of residents is well justified as it appears it is a plan with a forgone conclusion. Despite residents concerns of the eventual outcome I would encourage everyone attend and express your feelings, one way or the other. As Mayor Froese puts it “This is the final opportunity to learn about the Community Plan and have your say before it goes to Public Hearing.” Given the Mayor’s previous public and published comments that he doesn’t decide based on Public Hearing turnout or petitions, our collective confidence in his OR Council’s decisions are very suspect!

  • Brookswood / Fernridge Community Plan Open House
  • Brookswood Secondary School – 20902 37A Ave. Langley
  • 4 – 8 PM
  • Wednesday Feb. 19th, 2014

Please attend and make your voices heard!!!!!!!!! More on this in a later Post!

NEW – Additions to langleywatchdog.com BLOG Post

1)      Transportation is the single biggest issue we have South of the Fraser. You will now see a TAB at the top of our BLOG that is – S Fraser Community Rail – This tab features a professionally produced 25 minute video by Shaw Cable that tells the story of renewing passenger rights on the Interurban Rail Corridor between Scott Road Station and Chilliwack B.C.

2)      We have added a separate TAB for videos which will be used from time to time for videos dealing with Township of Langley issues of concern.

RG

I am working on a few posts at present that I believe should be of significant concern to residents of the Township of Langley.

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.

Comments
  1. Neil M Ziola says:

    Mr G R,
    Just a couple of my opinions in regards to this blog if I may.
    1) You keep saying that the majority of the community do not support the C R building as designed. I would say the majority of the special interest group oppose the building at 3 stories but in following the progress of this development for some time it seems to me there are many more Langley residents in favor of the project them opposed.
    2) I believe our mayor and Council have to make decisions in the best interests of all the community, not necessarily a small special interest group.
    3) You keep insisting that council and the developer have deliberately broken the laws of the land. I beg to differ, council in their wisdom will rely on staff to ensure the maze of the development process are followed. Staff I am sure would have obtained a legal opinion to ensure the correct procedure was followed on an application as delicate as this. The judge has ruled that he does not agree with their interpretation certainly does not conclude anyone set out to circumvent a by-law.
    Sincerely,
    Neil M Ziola

    • Mr. Ziola: Thank you for your comment. Well I have to disagree with on most of your points.

      I do say the majority which I believe was clearly illustrated by the petition of 900 submitted early in the process as well as about a 75% opposed in speakers against the proposal. Remember, that is when Mayor Froese said he didn’t make his decisions on petitions and/or public hearings. That just shows his inexperience.

      As to Council making the decisions – as I clearly said, Our Mayor and Council MUST abide by the law, it has nothing to do with going along with special interest groups.

      Yes the law was broken and if you go back on all Council records Staff rejected this proposal a number of times. Staff responsibility is to present and offer their opinion to Council, if Council insist on moving ahead staff will take direction as to their wishes but they are putting themselves at risk doing this when they did not support what was being asked. Saying they did not set about to deliberately to circumvent the law is like saying ignorance of the law is an excuse. It is not an excuse. As I said in my Post, if you agree with the Township breaking the law then who gets to do this all of us or just a chosen few? It would be anarchy which I am sure you understand. This is all about going through the legal process, nothing more. Just don’t try to conveniently short circuit the system and by doing so negatively affect taxpayers. All the best Rick

  2. Neil M Ziola says:

    Good Morning Mr. Green,

    Thanks so much for your reply and comments. I believe on these three issues we may want to agree to disagree. However there is another item you bring forward in this issue of Watchdog and in others that being your planned Community Amenity Contributions, paid for in your words by the developer. You know and I know that all costs incurred by the developer are added into the project proforma, marked up for overhead and profit, and then paid for by the end purchaser. The consummer then gets to pay Property Purchase Tax and GST Tax on the inflated price including the new additional tax you are proposing, which by the way benifits the community, not just new home buyers. I would think you would at the least be truthful as to who pays your proposed new tax.

    Thanks for your tine,

    Regards,

    Neil M Ziola

    • Good morning Neil: Well where do I start. Well there are times that agreeing to disagree would be very appropriate, in this case it is escaping reality on your part. It is a cop out in the absence of a reasoned argument. That is you fail to have a reasoned argument about how breaking the law can be anything but wrong. You also fail with respect to staff being opposed to this development from the outset.

      As to your argument that somehow I was being less than truthful about who would have to pay the CACs. This cost could be passed or not depending on market forces and profitability as it is in Vancouver, Surrey and everywhere else it is charged, but it is optional. It would just depend on what the developer wants out of their project and what the community wants for it to proceed. I never suggested otherwise. It is no different than development cost charges etc. It is called an amenity to the community paid for by new development not by the existing population.

      The argument about the Property Purchase Tax and GST on an inflated value. Welcome to 2014. Those revenues go to the Province and the Feds they do not benefit the community. Look, there are many very good developers and then there are those in the business that are far less than credible.

      Neil, this is a very simple argument, follow the process and the law as every other developer must and then let the chips fall where they may. They could also change the law, although I would suggest they do so at their peril.

      Thanks for the debate
      Rick

      • Neil M Ziola says:

        Good afternoon Mr. Green,

        Where do I begin? Well I think I was aware that the staff were opposed to the CB application but that does not in anyway remove them from their responsibility to inform the Mayor and Council that they might be circumventing a bylaw should they proceed with the application as presented. Certainly legal council for TOL do not agree the law was broken so that is why they are going forward on appeal and until that is heard and judged we should not be so quick to accuse.

        I am well aware of the high costs of DCC’s storm, sanitary,water and parks, school site aquastion and GVRD fees and of course lets us not forget arts and heritage fund and so now you want to add a CACs tax. It might not be so bad if these fees paid were for the sole benefit of the people who pay, the new home buyer, but unfortunatly the community benefits from these payments also.

        I see from your bio you were in business so you know about profit and loss. I am well aware of market forces effecting the market place but in most cases the developer at least will recoup his cost. I am not sure where you are coming from with this “Look, there are many very good developers and then there are those in the business that are far less than credible” or how it fits into this conversation. There are bad apples in every barrel, even at the mayors level ie. Rob Ford.

        I do think we agree on the province and the federal government taxing the taxes charged to the new home buyer with no benefit to our community. So how about if all of the fees charged above were charged as a disbursement on closing. Would not be marked up by the builder or developer and would not be effected by PPT and GST. Until someone takes possetion of the property there is no cost to the Township and it would certainly help with affordabilty.

        Your humble servant,

        Neil M Ziola

  3. Mr Ziola: To your points raised –
    Staff are responsible to advise Council re their professional opinion on a given subject. If Council choose to ignore or otherwise bypass that opinion they do so at their peril. This project went ahead based on a political decision not a professional decision (dreamnt up option by very senior staff).
    RE legal direction – You would have to look into the legal archives of this municipality to get the obvious answer to your statement. I am on record as opposing a number of legal opinions furnished to council and to-date I am batting about 900. I will leave it at that however if you have any common sense and any serious business experience, you can’t be in the Mayor’s Office for three years without coming to that conclusion. Read the legal opinions I mention and you will probably conclude the same thing.
    RE Community benefits – Well of course the community benefits however property tax does not sustain a community. There is a cost to every business. When you add Policing, Fire, Recreation and the list goes on someone has to pay. Your comments tell me you haven’t researched the program surrounding CACs. It is a very fair program for developers to participate in.
    RE Business experience – Yes I have had about 35 years in senior management positions as well as owing my own business. I know what it takes to make a profit. As my BIO indicates I am also a staunch Free Enterpriser nevertheless it never ceases to amaze me at to the lengths some people will go to reap maximum awards for themselves. A good developer would have no problem with following the route I am suggesting. An yes there are bad politicians as in every field!
    AS TO YOUR LAST SUGGESTION – it is an interesting idea but one that would require the help and support of the Province and Feds. I can tell you that there are many ideas including instituting a Property Development Trust Fund that should be considered in the Township immediately, but as I found out the group in leadership in this community are incapable of thinking outside the box. We will never move forward with these same people on Council, take that to the bank!

    Your humble BLOG Publisher
    Rick

  4. C Doyle, proud supporter of Cooulter Berry says:

    We are not in fact governed by the rule of law, that would be a Nomocracy. We ARE however governed by a system known as representative democracy. In this country “Rule of Law” is not our governance system but is in fact a legal principle which holds that no one is above the law and as such is quite irrelevant to the discussion as Justice Groves quite clearly determined that councils decision to pass CB was, to quote, “an error of process” and not as you have implied, an act of criminal intent. Justice Groves indicates, and he indicates absolutely, no opposition to CB and in fact takes the unusual step of explicitly prescribing how it might legally be achieved. Any other characterization of the Supreme Court Justice’s decision is simply disingenuous.

    • Well Catherine, I am surprised it has taken this long for you to send in a comment. Your reputation precedes you. By the way please spare us your condescending lecture and comments on the law, democracy and our system of governance. I would also strongly suggest and add, stay clear of any personal accusations that I have implied criminal intent – that is a lie and completely false!

      Now to the facts of Justice Groves decision which don’t fit with rationalizing that there somehow was never a real problem. NOT!
      #19 …”the petitioner further argued, and I agreed, that Langley, when they approved this HAP (Heritage Alteration Permit) breached s.972(4)(a) of the Local Government Act (LGA)
      #20 The LGA allows under s. 972(2)(b), through the HAP process, amendments to zoning bylaws. However, s. 972(4)(a) places restrictions on what a council can do under a HAP. This section prohibits council from varying the use of density of use of the lands subject to the HAP.
      #21 The LGA does not define the term density.
      #22 I find that Langley actions, in allowing a building to have, for lack of a better term, a footprint in excess of the 60% maximum noted in the Zoning bylaw., in this case, a three-storey building that had the effect of changing the density of use of the subject lands.
      #25 … So the question in its simplest terms is therefore, has Langley changed the density of use of this parcel of land by allowing a footprint in excess of 67% of the area of the land and by allowing a building to three storeys high rather than two. Common sense, and any reasonable interpretation of density of use, suggest that they have.
      #26 Council’s actions, I find as fact, have increased the density of use of the lands in question, an action which is expressly prohibited, or beyond their power under s. 972 of the LGA.
      #28 …Council should they choose, may amend the Zoning bylaw as it affects the density…. They cannot do it through a HAP as the LGA restricts them, in fact prohibits them, from varying density of use of the land in a Heritage Conservation Area through a HAP.

      So as you SHOULD clearly see Catherine, this is much more than process, this a breach of Provincial Legislation!!!!! Have a good evening!

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