Year in Review: No demolition but plenty of controversy over boarded-up Fort shops

Council debated knocking down all the structures, but demured

One possible resolution to the issue of boarded-up shops in Fort Langley – tear them down – was rejected by Langley Township council this year, as the debate over the future of the properties entered its third year.

The 11 structures, ranging from sizable shops to a shed, were owned by Township Councillor Eric Woodward’s Statewood Properties, who is transferring them to a charitable foundation.

All the properties were to be redeveloped in some way, with many planned to be torn down. They are a variety of ages and appearances, but none are protected with any historic designation.

Woodward announced he was abandoning his first development plans back in 2017, but that some of the buildings would be boarded up in the interim while new plans were worked out.

By the following February, several key shops in the downtown core had plywood over the windows and were closed. Woodward would later cover the boards with historic photos of the Fort.

The controversy dragged on as Woodward was elected to a position as a Township councillor in the 2018 election.

In the summer of 2019, a demolition permit for the properties was presented to the council.

More than 40 people spoke at a public hearing in July, which saw pro- and anti-demolition views expressed forcefully.

Those opposed to the demolition permit argued that the buildings are a part of the Fort’s history and aesthetic.

“There is a lot of heritage value here, and in my opinion, it cannot be ignored,” said George Otty.

He and others spoke of the connections between some of the houses and early Fort pioneer Billy Brown, along with connections to other early 20th century residents and business owners in the Fort.

A sizable minority was okay with demolition.

“I truly believe that every building, every home has a history, but it doesn’t necessarily make them historical,” said Lorraine Braddell.

Before the decision had even been made, the issue had flared up into a dispute between Woodward, who had recused himself from any decision on the properties, and former Township councillor Angie Quaale.

Woodward demanded an apology from Quaale over comments in a letter she wrote about the demolition plan.

But in September, Township council ultimately voted that no buildings would come down – at least, not yet.

The council voted against issuing a demolition permit until there are new development plans before the council.

That was expected to be between six months to a year for one lot, and potentially longer for the other site.

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