The Coulter Berry building in Fort Langley was approved by Langley Township council. That decision is now being challenged in court.

Group suing over Coulter Berry building says it is not anti-development

Group says it tried to settle with Langley Township, but there was no interest in doing so.

The people suing to prevent construction of the Coulter Berry building in Fort Langley say they waited as long as they did because they were trying to negotiate an out-of-court compromise with the Township.

The Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development issued a written statement on Friday, after The Times had reported that a lawyer for the Township was arguing the group waited too long, seven-and-a-half months after the project was approved, to apply for an injunction.

“The Township of Langley did receive a notice from our lawyer in late January that legal action was a possibility,” the statement said.

“We spent seven months going back and forth with the Township before coming to the conclusion there was no compromise forthcoming. The Township of Langley severed direct communication. Legal action was not initiated until this point for the simple reason that it was not our first choice, it was our last.”

The written statement was emailed to The Times by Diane Morrison, one of the directors of the society.

According to a BC Registry Services search, Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development was incorporated on May 23, 2013, with five directors: Morrison, Dorothy Abreo, Vicky Fraser, Andreas Schildhorn and Harold Whittell.

Last week, Coulter Berry developer Eric Woodward described Morrison as the “primary proprietor” of Wendel’s cafe and bookstore, the business located across the street from the proposed building.

“The petition seems designed to delay the commencement of construction of the Coulter Berry Building to prevent additional competition in Fort Langley for Wendel’s,” Woodward said.

The Morrison email said the society “concerns regarding this development are with the Township of Langley, not the developer” and goes on to say the group is not anti-development, it is against buildings that violate the heritage guidelines that are supposed to govern construction in Fort Langley.

“The society’s mandate is not to stop all development in the Heritage Conservation Area,” the statement said.

“We encourage sustainable development that conforms to the Fort Langley Official Community Plan, and the Fort Langley Building Facade Guidelines.”

By a 7-1 vote in November of last year, Township council approved a heritage alteration permit for the three-storey mix of residential, office and retail at the intersection of Glover Road and Mavis Avenue.

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

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

In the application to have the lawsuit dismissed, the Township lawyer also argued the society “does not have a direct, personal interest” in the issue as defined by law.

In the society release, the directors were described as “long-time residents and business owners in Langley, all with deep roots and ties to Fort Langley.”

If construction is allowed to proceed, the society court petition said the Coulter Berry building would “unalterably and irreparably undermine the heritage policies for land located in the Heritage Conservation Area, to the detriment of the cultural and historical heritage of Fort Langley, contrary to law.”

In the application to have the case thrown out, the Township lawyer said  Langley Township council has a “broad discretion” to approve variances from heritage guidelines.

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

Scaffolding has been erected around the Coulter Berry site, but construction hasn’t started.

Developer Woodward said the delay isn’t due to the court action and he expects work will begin later this month once “a few more technical details” have been worked out.

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