Updated: ‘Common sense’ Coulter Berry court reasons released

Judge explains why he ruled against Township approval of controversial project

Coulter Berry drawing

The B.C. Supreme Court judge who halted work on the controversial Coulter Berry building has released his written reasons for overturning the Township approval of the controversial project, calling it a “common sense” decision.

Justice Joel Groves said the Township violated its own regulations when it approved a heritage alteration permit (HAP) for the project that allowed construction of a three-storey building that was bigger than the maximum size allowed in the heritage conservation area of downtown Fort Langley.

Under the Township bylaw, a heritage alteration permit allows council to “vary” the restrictions on buildings in a conservation area, but it does not allow bigger buildings.

The bylaw specifically says “the use or density of use may not be varied” which means the case turns on one simple question, Judge Groves wrote.

” … has Langley changed the density of use of this parcel of land by allowing a footprint in excess of 67 per cent of the area of the land and by allowing a building to three storeys high rather than two,” Groves said.

“Common sense, and any reasonable interpretation of density of use, suggest that they have.”

The proposed building is approximately 50 per cent higher than the current zoning allowed and the council also allowed a “modest increase in the footprint of the building on the lands in question,” Groves said.

He also wrote that council could legally change the zoning of downtown  Fort Langley to approve bigger buildings like Coulter Berry “through the usual process of public hearings and public consultations.”

The Chilliwack judge ruled in favour of the Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development and against the Township on Oct. 25, halting the construction.

In his brief verbal ruling, the judge said he would give full written reasons for his decision at a later date.

Council approved a court challenge of the decision on Nov. 4, before the judge’s reasons were released, because of court rules that say a challenge must be filed within 30 days of a decision.

The nine-page decision was filed on Wednesday, Dec. 11 and released Thursday, Dec. 12 by the Township.

In a written statement issued at the same time, mayor Jack Froese said the judge took a different view of density than the Township did.

“I want to make it clear that Council did its due diligence by conferring with legal counsel prior to proceeding with the approval of the HAP and understood the definition of density somewhat differently from Justice Grove’s interpretation,” Froese said.

Township lawyers will review the written reasons before council decides whether to proceed with the appeal, he said.

Froese added council could do what the judge said was permitted and proceed with rezoning the property, saying it will give the possibility “serious consideration as it makes every effort to resolve this issue.”

Work on the building began in late summer.

It was the subject of a lengthy public hearing before council approved it, and has faced continued opposition from  the Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development and the Langley Heritage Association.

Harold Whittell, a  director of the Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development, said any rezoning would still have to follow the limits established by the Fort Langley official community plan (OCP).

“Any attempt by the Township to spot zone or circumvent these safeguards would be vehemently opposed,” Whittell said.

He said rather than continuing the court fight, council should  consider a redesign that would bring Coulter Berry within the size restrictions.

“Our society believes there are other options available to the Township to find a solution to the present situation that may offer a win/win for all concerned,”  Whittell said.

Eric Woodward, the developer of the Coulter Berry project, said the shutdown of his project has also put a crimp in plans to bury the overhead wiring in the village core area early next year.

That’s because the temporary shoring walls for the building’s underground parkade required shoring anchors that run underneath the street and would interfere with construction of underground power line conduits, Woodward said.

“Construction [of the underground wiring] will now very likely not commence until at least the winter of 2015, delaying the project’s completion until at least 2016 or 2017,” Woodward said.

 

Just Posted

VIDEO: Multiple fire department units called to Brookswood house fire

Blaze appeared to have started in a parked trailer

VIDEO: Canadian Junior Football national championships come to Langley

Rams battle Saskatoon Hilltops for the top title, Saturday, Nov. 16, at McLeod Athletic Park

Langley’s Lions Housing target of human rights complaint

A former resident alleges discrimination after coming out as trans

Aldergrove alumni volleyball coaches drum up school spirit

Former ACSS volleyball players Shelby Butler, Kaitlin Pool, and Michaela Hampton continue a legacy

VIDEO: Realtors battle it out over Park Avenue, the Electric Company, and the railroads

Third Realtor Monopoly fundraiser held in Langley to help New Hope Community Services

Listening to Christmas music too early could affect your mental health

Linda Blair, a clinical psychologist, says preemptive Christmas music can trigger anxiety

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Body found after SUV found fully engulfed in flames in Abbotsford field

The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team have been called in

Family of B.C. man killed in hit-and-run plead for tips, one year later

Cameron Kerr’s family says the driver and passengers tried to cover their tracks

Princeton couple pays for dream vacation with 840,000 grocery store points

It’s easy if you know what you are doing, they say

Chilliwack family’s dog missing after using online pet-sitting service

Frankie the pit bull bolted and hit by a car shortly after drop off through Rover.com

B.C. wildlife experts urge hunters to switch ammo to stop lead poisoning in birds

OWL, in Delta, is currently treating two eagles for lead poisoning

B.C. First Nations drop out of court challenge, sign deals with Trans Mountain

Upper Nicola Band says deal represents a ‘significant step forward’

Most Read