The Coulter Berry Public Hearing was a circus! Propagated by a biased majority of Council…. Nothing has changed!

Posted: March 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

What an unmitigated joke, if it wasn’t so serious it would be hilarious! The fix is in. Yours truly has had a number of www.langleywatchdog.com correspondents attend the three days of Coulter Berry Public Hearings, all submitting detailed reports. On what can only be described as an attempted orchestration for a predetermined result to approve. I have a caution to members of Council – You have just poked the bear and he isn’t happy!

With today’s world of Municipal Government, the people, the average taxpayer seemingly has or is perceived to have less and less influence over the actions of their political masters. The never ending moves and actions to orchestrate policy, control the message and/or look after the wishes of friends and insiders is being seen for what it is by many, pathetic and undemocratic. In the case of the Township of Langley it is just way over the top. I would suggest that the practice of true public consultation, communication and involvement in and by our communities doesn’t exist, nor some would say has it ever existed. We are still a throw-back to the Wild Wild West of land deals, speculators and special favors. A Message to members of Council and those who have been comfortable in their self-serving capacity, up to now, as a member of the Township Establishment – Those days of comfort are quickly coming to an end.

Every Municipality and/or City finally reaches its tipping or breaking point because of the actions of its elected representatives. What generally speaking is the pre-cursor to the dramatic change that follows? Greed and arrogance by those in power and we have that in spades!

So to the Public Hearing; managing one and it’s fair and democratic process takes great care and experience. It was interesting that Mayor Froese used the following well known phrase in opening the Public Hearing, “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” Well Mayor Froese here is another phrase for you to consider, “Actions speak louder than words” and the actions of this council over 2 ½ years speak for themselves.

#1) Venue for a Public Hearing – First off, our Mayor and Council are responsible for the fair and equitable treatment of citizens from both sides of the debate on any given issue. The Coulter Berry proposal has been easily THE most controversial development seen in the Township of Langley for many years if ever! So if we buy into those two statements being true, which they are, then why would our Council schedule a Public Hearing in a venue that could not possibly hold the capacity needed? Just one week earlier this Council scheduled a Public Hearing for Brookswood Fernridge in their Council Chambers, received an overflow crowd and conveniently rescheduled for the next two nights down at the George Preston facility. That was the right decision, so why the residents of Fort Langley and the Township were seriously inconvenienced by continuing with having this Public Hearing at Municipal Hall and not rescheduled to a larger venue? No parking, No seats, residents packed into outside rooms and hallways. The Mayor stated prior to the start of the Coulter Berry Public Hearing that they could not change the venue as it had already been advertised. What BS! They changed the Brookswood Fernridge Public Hearing without that advertising. It is a disgrace!

Fact, the main Council Chamber Doors were opened about two hours earlier than any other Council meeting and/or Public Hearing ever held in that Council Chamber. Surprise, it was full of those speaking in favor of the project; it would be fair to say there was an aura of convenience for Mr. Woodward and his supporters. Remember when we said “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”!!! It is not happening in the Township!

#2) Public Hearing Development Introduction Process – At the start of the Public Hearing traditionally the proponent is given the opportunity to present his/her case to Council and the public. They are also given the opportunity if they wish, to defer to the end and this is important, only to answer questions raised by the public during the Public Hearing. The Mayor did not offer that opportunity to the proponent to present his case before the Public Hearing nor did the Mayor offer the proponent an opportunity to defer to the end.

Now the Township of Langley Planning Department will normally introduce the bylaws that are up for discussion and an executive summary overview on what they are about. The Township should not take on the role and responsibility of the developer at the start of the Public Hearing laying out complete detail of the development.

#3) Public Hearing hours – It is imperative for Mayor and Council to run a Public Hearing giving maximum thought to the convenience of the taxpaying public. This Public Hearing in my opinion was mismanaged from the outset with respect to passing motions to extend hours. There is no question that if you get close to the end (as an example) it is 11:00 PM and you have one or two speakers left, an extension of 15 minutes would be in order, but extending the last day to 12:45 AM in the morning is outrageous, an affront to democracy and an insult to those still wanting to speak. I personally know of a number who wanted to speak but could not possibly stay up that long given work commitments.

#4) Handling of statements by concerned residents – I am privy to a number of comments made by the public that were well within their right to make but denied by the Mayor. I am not talking about brash name calling or anything of that sort because that would not nor should it ever be allowed. If a project comes forward to a Public Hearing for spot zoning which is being marketed and sold to the community based on a variety of benefits as the developer sees them, all of that is fair game for comment. You are not running a sterile environment within a Public Hearing in which the public fear to tread. The Council Chambers and the office you and this Council hold are at the behest of the voting public, nothing more.

#5) Actions of Mayor Froese and Council members – The You Tube Video (link below) says it all. While some of the Woodward supporters are ripping into Councilor Long they are absolutely offside and quite frankly insulting to their cause. Councilor Long and I have had our differences in the past; he has challenged me as well. Never-the-less his challenge of the Mayor in this case allowing Eric Woodward far too much flexibility and time given that he was spending most of it being openly critical of those opposing his development was absolutely correct. This time is allotted to the Developer to answer questions about his project, not to espouse his views of all that oppose it or him. The Mayor was completely wrong in his handling of this Public Hearing.

Councilor Fox’s actions were completely offside and an embarrassment, he should apologize to the public immediately. This was a public Council meeting that clearly outlines what a member of Council can and cannot do and by any measure Councilor Fox’s actions should be publicly censored by Council.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpvkaD6bF1E

#6) The responsibility and ability of this Mayor and Council to fairly decide on these bylaws is seriously in question? –  Mayor and Council are in a quasi-judicial state while going through the Public Hearing leading up to 3rd reading. They have a fiduciary (legal) responsibility to fairly hear all sides of the question, listen to ALL residents and take into account all petitions.

So consider, this Council (not David Davis) has previously approved this development which was proven to be illegal and the majority of Council members – Mayor Jack Froese, Councillors Kim Richter, Grant Ward, Charlie Fox, Bev Dornan and Michelle Sparrow participated in a well-publicised sod turning of this illegal development prior to a building permit ever being issued. Now we are to believe that this Council will fairly consider ALL input? Remember Mayor Froese “Justice must not only be done it must be seen to be done”. “Actions speak louder than words!”

In summary –

All members of your Municipal Council have a responsibility to all of us as taxpayers and that is to be responsible to all laws and legislation that they are responsible for governing the Local Government Act and the Community Charter. They are not a law unto themselves. It is unfortunate in my mind that the Community Charter as enacted by the Gordon Campbell Government in and around 2003 neutered the old Municipal Act with respect to Municipal oversight. For all intents and purpose it doesn’t exist anymore. The decisions by this Council on March 31st, 2014 will send a telling message for Election Day later this year. I said decisions because the Brookswood Fernridge Community Plan vote will be held the same day. A post on this proposal later this week. I would encourage all residents in the Township of Langley to attend Christian Life Assembly at 7:00 PM Monday March 31st for personal observation whether your Council listens or not. So here is a little reminder on how we got to where we are at:

Coulter Berry – A little FACTUAL history!

  • Fort Langley British Columbia is a small town full of history which is known widely as the Birth Place of B.C.
  • Langley Heritage Society is established in 1979. Hundreds and hundreds of residents over the last 4 decades have worked tirelessly to put in place policy, guidelines and bylaws to protect Fort Langley’s future for future generations.
  • Past Municipal Councils have taken affirmative action and put in place Heritage policy and bylaw protection specifically against the kind of Coulter Berry development being proposed.
  • Fort Langley Building Facade Guidelines are put in place.
  • Heritage Conservation Area established.
  • Reinforcing bylaws to protect the height limit (2 storys) in 2004/05. (NOTE – All members of that Council, current and past, are now trying to change what they had put in place. All except David Davis.)
  • Eric Woodward arrives on the scene about five years ago and starts to buy up a number of properties (Now owns about 50% of the Commercial area of Fort Langley).
  • Eric Woodward all of a sudden becomes the poster boy for what someone wants someone gets? Consider how popular he has become: President of the Fort Langley BIA, Director of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, Township Community Participation Infrastructure & Environment Committee, Township Economic Development Advisory Committee and the Township Heritage Advisory Committee (Last year)
  • Eric Woodward buys up the front IGA lot plus the Hardware lot and starts to prepare his plan for a three story building led by none other than his consultant Kurt Alberts, a former Mayor that was instrumental in putting in place the bylaw protection they are now trying to overturn.
  • Eric Woodward, with plans under his arm shows up in the Township of Langley Planning department and was rejected twice by staff.
  • Then it is off to the Mayor’s office for help, no doubt with consultant Kurt Alberts in tow. You know the same Mayor that has strong connections to the majority of this Council.
  • A staff report comes to Council that rejects the proposal. After debate, Councilor Fox moves a motion, seconded by Michelle Sparrow to request a report from Council that would outline a way they could approve this proposal. Passed.
  • A staff report comes back to Council with no recommendation by staff but nevertheless it was approved by Council.
  • On approval of this report to Council the developer initiates sod turning and excavation of site, despite no building permit and full knowledge of the upcoming Judicial Review application.
  • An official application is filed for a Judicial Review of the process used by the Township.
  • Judicial Review is successful in B.C. Supreme Court; the Heritage Alteration Permit is set aside. Construction stops.
  • Township files an appeal application.
  • Eric Woodward files a new application and rezoning request for Coulter Berry 2.0
  • Public Hearing Monday March 10th, 2014
  • Council Decision 7:00 PM Monday March 31st. Hope you can attend Christian Life Assembly for the Council meeting and to observe the decision.

RG

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

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

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