The Langley Heritage Society failed to convince Township council that power lines and utility poles in Fort Langley’s commercial core should not be removed and buried underground.
Approval to bury utility poles and wires in Fort Langley’s commercial core passed by a narrow 51.5 per cent of owners of property in the Local Area Service covered by the petition.
Council gave approval for the work on Oct. 22.
The petition is the initiative of the Fort Langley Business Improvement Association whose president is Eric Woodward. Of the 33 properties in the LAS, he owns 12.
The area affects the 16 units of Heritage Manor, a two-storey residence above a street-level row of shops and businesses. Council agreed that to mitigate the financial impact on those residents, the Township will consider timing the project until after a sewer levy, approved years ago by another petition, has been fully paid.
Ted Lightfoot of the Heritage Society said that the wires may be unsightly but they have never posed a hazard.
He said the “picture has changed” with the proposed Coulter Berry building, a retail-residential building planned for the southeast corner of Glover Road and Mavis Avenue.
“The main beneficiary appears to be the developer,” Lightfoot said.
Woodward is the developer.
Lightfoot predicted a “huge disruption” when sidewalks are dug up to bury the services.
“Many trees will be destroyed,” Lightfoot claimed, adding that if not destroyed, they would be damaged.
Asked by Councillor Kim Richter if he thought the wires were “heritage,” Lightfoot replied, “Personally, they are not.”
He added, “It would be nice if they could go, but I think the cost is too outrageous.”
He suggested placing the services in lanes.
“It’s a far better solution than tearing up the street and putting a huge burden on taxpayers.”
Engineering and planning manager Ramin Seifi advised council that relocating services to easements behind the commercial buildings is not an option. This would likely prove impractical, more complicated and expensive, Seifi said.
Casey Smith, a BIA member who lives on Mavis Avenue, disagreed with Lightfoot.
“This is a perfect opportunity to clean up the streetscape of the core of Fort Langley,” Smith said.
“By putting the power lines underground, we are saving the trees,” he said.
Seifi commented later that the heritage maple tree that stands on the corner of Glover Road and 96 Avenue is not at risk. The design for the new streetscape will ensure that no digging occurs where roots can be disturbed.
Noting that overhead services have been relocated underground in Steveston, Haney and Aldergrove commercial cores, Misty vanPopta noted that the same can be achieved in Fort Langley “to balance heritage and keep the core vital and relevant.”
Councillor Charlie Fox said that images comparing Fort Langley’s commercial core as it is now to those that had the wires and poles removed with Photoshop, show the inherent value of picturesque and quaint Fort Langley.
“They tell a story unto themselves,” Fox said.
Last week, Woodward had urged council to act swiftly to take advantage of low interest rates for the project which will cost the benefiting property owners $3 million, and Township taxpayers $1 million.