Athenry rezoning challenged in court

Six residents who oppose Athenry Developments’ project for condos and a cultural centre have petitioned the B.C. Supreme Court to overturn Langley Township council’s official endorsement on Jan. 31.In a document filed on Feb. 25, Hank and Lisa Der, Bob and Linda Duncan, Mike Gardner and Yongjoong Kim seek an order quashing bylaws and a development permit which council adopted on Jan. 31. These rezoned four acres on the northeast corner of 83 Avenue and 208 Street, and approved a development permit for condos, offices, shops and an Irish cultural centre.Minutes after the vote, Hank Der said that “legal action will now commence.”Jonathan Baker, an acknowledged expert in municipal law, told council much the same thing. Retained by an association of residents impacted by the four-acre development, Baker said the proposal needs to go back to the drawing board.“If you won’t do it, a judge will,” he warned at a public hearing into the development permit application.Baker told council on Jan. 31 that homeowners are not opposed to the development “and would happily see it finished.” But they do not want to face a wall of development twice the height of their homes a few metres away, he added. The court document states that the petitioners bought their homes in 2006 and 2007, after having attended City Hall “to determine whether there were any plans in the course of preparation by the Township to change the Official Community Plan, the neighbourhood plan or zoning “that would affect the development potential of Athenry Lands and that could as a result negatively affect the amenities of their future home sites. Township officials advised that no such changes were contemplated.”

At a cost of $500,000, Athenry will relocate and restore Willoughby Hall.The components of the development are general housing, homes for seniors, retail and commercial.Opponents claim residential buildings are too tall and too close to their homes thus blocking out the sun, and that the landscaping proposed provides an insufficient barrier from those buildings.The petition relies on the position of the three members of council who voted against the proposal: Mayor Rick Green, Councillor Bob Long and Councillor Kim Richter.The petition also claims the bylaws and guidelines “ultra vires (not duly passed) and unreasonable.”Tony McCamley of Athenry Developments called the action “very sad,” and one that will hurt many people, as well as the arts and cultural community.Noting that his family has lived in the area for 35 years, McCamley said, “We are trying to come up with something that benefits the whole community.”Administrator Mark Bakken said that a typical court application will cost taxpayers between $50,000 and $75,000.Work on the Athenry development has already begun.If the Township loses, it may have to pay a portion of the petitioners’ legal costs. Similarly, if the six residents lose their case, they may be required to pick up a portion of the township’s legal fees.

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