The Kwantlen First Nation will not be absorbing Fort Langley properties owned by the Eric Woodward Foundation into the nation’s reserve lands, the KFN announced Monday.
A press release from the KFN said the chiefs and council were confirming that they would not proceed with the partnership, which was announced in early March this year.
The plan had been to transfer two land assemblies, both in downtown Fort Langley, to the first nation, to be added to Kwantlen land through the Federal Additions to Reserve Process.
“The partnership opportunity with the Foundation is not supported, and this was confirmed through the direction of our main community governing advisory tables within the community – our Elders Advisory and Lands Advisory Committee,” Chief Marilyn Gabriel said in a statement. “We honour and respect this feedback and have directed that our Kwantlen staff and staff of our economic entity, the Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group… no longer proceed.”
The statement said the Kwantlen chief and council valued their relationship with the Township, local citizens, and the business community, and would continue to explore future land opportunities and partnerships.
A statement from the Eric Woodward Foundation said the initial process had been broken off as early as June 22 this year from the foundation’s side.
The foundation wrote to KFN leadership asking to restart the process, with wider consultation and consideration over a longer period of time.
“However, the foundation received no response to its request for a new process,” the statement said.
Councillor Tumia Knott of the KFN said that there were multiple groups involved in the internal process to make a decision on the Woodward Foundation proposal, and that the Kwantlen council wanted to ensure both the Land Advisory Committee and the Elders Advisory had a chance to review and give direction.
“The Lands Advisory Committee direction came in June and, due to delays in being able to convene our Elders safely as a result of COVID-19, the Elders Advisory direction came in October,” Knott said.
Woodward has been seeking to redevelop two major sites in the downtown for several years, but had come into conflict with the Township over site design, and the projects never came to a vote of the council. Some buildings on the sites are closed and boarded up.
He said the plan now is to continue trying to redevelop the sites under Township auspices.
“The application for development has always been pending with the Township of Langley,” Woodward said. “The same application will continue to advance through the development review process. Any agreement with KFN required approval from the Township of Langley for municipal services: fire, police, water and sewer.”
He said the plan was to pursue simultaneous approval because of the length of time required to transfer lands to a First Nations reserve.
In March, when the plan was first announced, Woodward was asked if the plan to transfer the lands was a way of building what he had planned, without interference from Langley Township, but he said it was not.
Woodward said the foundation could have proceeded with development at any time in a way that was profitable for the foundation, or “waited for the climate to change.”
“Also, I do not see the Township of Langley’s bylaws as ‘interference,’” Woodward said. “We were not subject to ‘bylaws’ but instead a series of political attempts to compromise our private property rights, as we have seen with the refusal to allow us to even remove buildings without any heritage value whatsoever.”
Fort Langley Properties was to have been the leaseholder on the lands, funnelling any profits back to a charitable foundation or local non-profits.
If the land had been transferred, it would no longer have been under the control or jurisdiction of the Township of Langley. Taxes or fees would have flowed to the KFN rather than the Township, and the KFN would have had final say on zoning or building permits.