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Supporters outnumber critics at Coulter Berry open house

Coulter Berry developer Eric Woodward spoke to a mostly sympathetic crowd of over 200 Thursday night in Fort Langley to describe how the design of the controversial structure has been revised.  - Dan FERGUSON / Langley Times
Coulter Berry developer Eric Woodward spoke to a mostly sympathetic crowd of over 200 Thursday night in Fort Langley to describe how the design of the controversial structure has been revised.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON / Langley Times

There were more supporters than opponents of the Coulter Berry building at a Thursday night open house arranged by developer Eric Woodward in Fort Langley to present a revised design for the controversial construction project.

More than half of the over 200 people who filled the Fort Langley heritage community hall to capacity raised their hands when the question was posed at the end of the two-hour meeting.

There were only two undecided.

It was a low-key event, without the heated rhetoric Woodward said has been directed against him for trying to build the three-storey project that is bigger than the Fort Langley size limits.

He projected one example on the wall, a response card that said "obey and respect the law, you greedy bastard."

Woodward said some of the comments have been "regrettable."

With the exception of a few muttered heckles at the back of the room,  people who spoke against the project at the open house were uniformly civil, maintaining the building as proposed was simply too big, with one warning "we could be creating something that doesn't see a lot of sunshine" while supporters said the building with its mix of retail, office and housing would be an asset to the community.

"I'm very interested in that third floor [where the housing will be]" said one man in a wheelchair, who argued the community needs smaller residences for people downsizing or in need of disabled-friendly accommodation.

Woodward was pressed about the underground parking, something supporters said would make it easier to find spaces in downtown Fort Langley, while critics said it was excessive.

The look of the project has been altered to make the building appear like several heritage structures, for the application by Woodward to have the area re-zoned to allow construction of the taller building.

The rezoning was something the judge who ruled against the previous approval hinted at when he ruled the Township broke its own rules to approve the first version of the project, saying that would not violate the law.

The builder defended the design, calling it "one of the greenest buildings that can possibly be built."

"If we have to re-apply, why not make it better," Woodward said.

Woodward added he has no plan to get involved in the court appeal by the Township, but he supports the municipal challenge.

"The Township should be worried about varying a building by one foot [with that precedent]," Woodward said.

Six members of the Township council were present for the open house; Kim Richter, Michelle Sparrow, Bob Long, Bev Dornan, Charlie Fox and Grant Ward.

All of them, with the exception of Long, approved the project and voted to appeal the court ruling.

 

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly included Councillor Long among the supporters of the project.

 

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