From left to right, Langley Township Councillors Charlie Fox and Grant Ward, Coulter Berry developer Eric Woodward and Mayor Jack Froese pose for a picture at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Fort Langley project Tuesday evening. The building will contain a mix of retail, office and residential space, and a large underground parking area. Excavation work on the site, at Glover and Mavis in Fort Langley, is expected to begin Thursday.

From left to right, Langley Township Councillors Charlie Fox and Grant Ward, Coulter Berry developer Eric Woodward and Mayor Jack Froese pose for a picture at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Fort Langley project Tuesday evening. The building will contain a mix of retail, office and residential space, and a large underground parking area. Excavation work on the site, at Glover and Mavis in Fort Langley, is expected to begin Thursday.

Construction begins on Coulter Berry

A sodturning event on Tuesday night marked the beginning of construction on the Fort Langley building.

Coulter Berry building developer Eric Woodward donned a hard hat and posed with a shovel to officially begin construction of the Fort Langley project Tuesday evening.

As he walked to the podium at the work site, the sound system played the theme from “Rocky” to underscore the rough ride the building has received from opponents in the community.

“They didn’t tell me about that part,” Woodward said as the music faded.

The mix of retail, residential and office is going up at the intersection of Glover Road and Mavis Avenue, where the old IGA and a hardware store used to stand.

Opponents of the development complain it is too big for Fort Langley and some have gone to court to block construction.

Woodward, who has the necessary excavation permit to begin digging the foundation, said he was glad to get going.

“It feels like it’s taken forever,” Woodward said.

Actual excavation is expected to begin Thursday.

About 100 people turned out for the sod-turning and picture-taking ceremony, including Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese and Councillors Grant Ward, Kim Richter, Charlie Fox, Bev Dornan and Michelle Sparrow.

Froese called the Coulter Berry project a “rare gem.”

“This building is going to be worth preserving for generations to come,” Froese said.

“I know 100 years from now, it will be a heritage building.”

Township council approved a heritage alteration permit for the project by a 7-1 vote in November of last year, allowing it to exceed development guidelines for the area.

At 43.5 feet tall and three storeys high, the Coulter Berry building is 14.5 feet over the Fort Langley Building Facade Guidelines height limit of 29 feet and two storeys.

It also has a lot coverage of 67 per cent, when only 60 per cent is usually the limit.

The newly-formed Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to overturn the Township decision, saying it was beyond the authority of council.

In response, the Township has asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, saying council has a “broad discretion” to approve variances from heritage guidelines.

The case is scheduled to be heard by a judge in Chilliwack on Sept. 9.