Several boarded up Fort Langley buildings could be demolished and turned into temporary green spaces in the near future.
The company that owns the buildings has applied to demolish them, Woodward wrote on his Facebook page Sunday. “We thought it best to make use of the these areas, rather than have them sit as they are for what could be a while.”
He added: “We want to open up Gasoline Alley for better exposure for the businesses there.”
If the buildings are knocked down, the sites will be covered with turf and grass, as well as some picnic tables. Woodward previously turned another vacant lot, at the corner of Glover Road and Mary Avenue into a small park while he was waiting to develop in the village.
Fort residents have been sharing opinions on the proposed demolition.
“The [Fort Langley Community Association] is in the process of collecting email responses from residents and businesses,” said FLCA president Andy Schildhorn. “Presently we have over 100 responses. This application to demolish these buildings has ignited lots of heated discussion amongst our community, and we hope it continues in a respectful manner.”
A number of the buildings are boarded up and have been empty since the fall of 2017, which has previously caused controversy in the Fort.
In 2018, Woodward announced he was transferring the bulk of his Fort Langley properties to a charitable foundation.
That followed a period in which Woodward, who was elected to Township council last fall, butted heads with the Township’s bureaucracy over his plans to redevelop the sites.
Woodward said the plan is to still go forward with development plans for the land, but said it could potentially take years to develop, and cleaning them up and turning the sites into public amenities is preferable to leaving the boarded up structures in place.
The site on the west side of Glover Road could be left boarded up for four to five years, as the property that lies between Glover Road and Mary and Church Streets is to be developed first, he said.
“We don’t think that’s a good idea,” Woodward said of leaving the buildings standing and vacant.
The properties are still currently owned by Woodward’s Statewood Properties, but there are plans to transfer them to a company whose profits will flow to charities, including the Eric Woodward Foundation, confirmed foundation board chair Tom Kirstein.
The buildings proposed for demolition are not historically significant.
“None of the subject structures have been considered as candidates for the Township’s Heritage Inventory in the past, nor are they considered to have adequate value to meet the criteria required for the Township’s Heritage Inventory or Register today,” said a memo to the Township’s mayor and council this spring.
However, because all of Fort Langley’s core is a heritage conservation area, demolition permits go through a more rigorous process, explained Ramin Seifi, head of engineering and community development.
A heritage alteration permit has to be issued by council before the buildings can be demolished. That could happen as soon as July 22, but that date is not written in stone, Seifi said.
If council doesn’t consider the demolition permit on July 22, or delays making a decision, it would be at least September before a permit could be issued because July 22 is the last council meeting of the summer.