Hundreds of people packed the Chief Sepass theatre in Fort Langley Monday night to hear developer Eric Woodward talk about his plans for Fort Langley.
For nearly two hours, Woodward — who created the event — answered questions from host Fiona Forbes, and members in the audience, about why he boarded up buildings in Fort Langley’s commercial core, why his boutique hotel proposal was withdrawn, why he feels he’s at a stalemate with the Township of Langley, and dozens more.
An overflow room was set up in the lobby of the theatre with a screen live streaming the event for those who did not have tickets.
Last fall, Woodward began boarding up businesses after he reached an impasse with the Township over several proposed development projects he had planned for the village, including the boutique hotel.
In March, Coun. Kim Richter made a motion to have Woodward come to council to present his concerns to them, but the motion was voted down in a 6-2 decision.
At the event on Monday, Woodward said he began acquiring land along Glover Road in Fort Langley in 2005 when “nobody wanted it,” but it wasn’t until 2012, when he submitted his application for the three-storey Coulter Berry Building, that the situation in the village started to become negative and personal.
“That became the crux of where we are today,” he said.
Woodward was referring to his impasse with the Township. In 2014, he approached the Township about turning one of his lots at Mary Avenue and Glover Road into a development similar to the Reid Block at Mavis Avenue and Church Street, or the Albion at 9181 Church St. At that time, he owned all but one of the lots on that block, and was told he would have to put in a lane to provide rear access to that one property. He said he asked the Township if the lane would still be required if he owned all eight lots, and was told it would not.
Woodward then purchased the eighth property, and started a design and community consultation process for developing the whole block in late 2015, followed by focus groups and presentations in 2016. From there, the boutique hotel proposal was formed.
“Six months later the response from the Township is, where’s the lane?” Woodward said.
“Then it spiraled out of control, and I think I lost control of that, and I bear some of the responsibility for that.”
No one from the Township or from council spoke during the event.
Click the link below to hear the full interview.
Part One — Interview with Fiona Forbes
Q: What is the current state of things today? 1:20 mins
Q: Are you the good, the bad or the ugly? 1:51 mins
Q: Who is Eric Woodward? In your own words 2:10 mins
Q: Why did you choose to buy so much property in Fort Langley? 3:24 mins
Q: When did things become so negative and somewhat personal? 5:28 mins
Q: What was the sticking point with people that got them so angry (about Coulter Berry)? 6:17 mins
Q: Why did you make such a huge acquisition in such a small area in such a small town? 7:22 mins
Q: (Coulter Berry) seems to be the centre of all the negativity and acrimony, is that true? 8:51 mins
Q: Do you think that’s because there are so many people that want to keep Fort Langley, Fort Langley? And keep it as is, a quaint town? 9:18 mins
Q: Why not stick to the heritage guidelines as they’re outlined? 9:34 mins
Q: Is the third storey the sticking point? 10:39 mins
Q: Why insist on the third storey? 10:56 mins
Q: What about the people who say two storeys is heritage? 12:13 mins
Q: The Township of Langley staff require a lane through the Boutique Hotel … Why is this a point of contention? 13:39 mins
Q: Why not put the lane there? 16:53 mins
Q: If today you were told you could do the hotel as you wanted to, would you still do it? 17:58 mins
Q: In 2016 you also proposed a small two storey building on Glover Road that has a little bit of a modern look to it. Tell me a little about this project and where this one stands. 18:43 mins
Q: When it comes to the small building we are speaking of, do you think it was the modern design that didn’t have a place that got the objection? What do you think was the sticking point? 20:11 mins
Q: Why did you remove the mural in Gasoline Alley? 21:57 mins
Q: What were you hoping to accomplish by painting a derelict house pink? 23:18 mins
Q: You didn’t triple Jim’s Pizza’s rent and run them out of town? 27:43 mins
Q: What about Lampliter, what’s the situation there? 28:32 mins
Q: A lot of people want to know about the trees as well, about cutting down the trees. 30:03 mins
Q: Was cutting down the trees legal? 31:19 mins
Q: I also have to ask you about the love sign and your thoughts on that. 31:42 mins
Q: Why wouldn’t you just sell the property and walk away? Why put yourself through all of this? 32:14 mins
Q: What are your comments on the buildings that are boarded up? 34:00 mins
Q: What would you say the letter was and why did you send out that “white flag?” 35:05 mins
Q: How do you get past the apparent impasse with the Township? 36:40 mins
Q: There was a motion to ask you to come speak to council. That was defeated, I believe it was 6-2. What are your thoughts on this? 38:57 mins
Q: Why not (apply to speak to council), instead of waiting for an invitation? 40:04 mins
Q: This does seem very, very personal (on social media). How do you handle that? 41:05 mins
Q: How do you feel that you can move forward in a positive manner and maybe sort some of this out? 42:43 mins
Q: Why are you still so passionate about all of this? 44:43 mins
Q: What do you say on the flip side when people say, “Eric Woodward just wants his way or the highway?” 45:41 mins
Q: Any final comments? 47:00 mins
Part two — Audience Questions
Q: I don’t understand why there’s so much opposition. 49:57 mins
Q: As a business owner in the heart of Fort Langley, obviously looking at the plywood right across from my store is a little disheartening. Is there anyway we can bring in some of the students from the fantastic school to come in and decorate and paint? 51:30 mins
Q: You alluded, Eric, to the new hotel by the Township and Kwantlen (First Nation). Do you think the resistance you’re getting from the council has anything to do with that? 52:42 mins
Q: Just wanted to get an idea of the tone when you interact with the council, or Township staff I should say. Do you feel its just being incompetence, do you feel it’s deliberate, and what kind of change would you like to see in terms of how the staff operate in the Township to avoid these things. 54:43 mins
Q: I have a question about the intersection, because of course it would be our building that would get moved. The heritage building that everybody says, that awful Eric isn’t going to wreck it is he? And if it’s the Township suggesting there be an intersection through my building, that I go somewhere else? And that McBride becomes big and wide, what is the purpose of this big intersection? Is it so that we can have more big trucks? 56:57 mins
Q: I’d like to know what are your favourite parts about Fort Langley? What are your hobbies? What do you love about this town that you are so obsessed with? 58:10 mins
Q: I’m wondering if you asked anyone from the Township to come and be here and tell us their part of the story. 1:00:25 mins
Q: It sounds like there’s a lot of moving goal posts for you and what you want to get done. Is there not an OCP or neighbourhood plan in place that council can follow?
Q: What can we do as a community? 1:04:28 mins
Q: Does the plan say the maximum height of buildings is three storeys or two storeys? 1:07:43 mins
Q: Would you consider tearing down the old Re/Max office and Jim’s pizza so we don’t have to stare at it for the next two years while we sort this all out? 1:13:12 mins
Q: Is there anything in Fort Langley structurally that you actually feel is of value? 1:16:20 mins
Q: The Official Community Plan in Fort Langley is about 30 years old? An updated plan, from a developer’s perspective, would that make life a lot easier for all the developers if you knew the rules ahead of time? 1:18:00 mins
Q: Very early in your statement when you were being interviewed, you made this comment, and this is a quote “this can be fixed in an instant.” Tell me how. 1:22:33 mins
Q: Do you have a short term plan? 1:25:25 mins
Q: You said with the Simpson building that they want to put a four-way intersection there, but is that building going to be moved anyway? 1:26:38 mins
Q: I have heard through the grapevine that you are a whiner, and I’m finding out now you’re not quite the whiner I thought you were. I was also led to believe that the tickets were rigged and that only people who liked you were going to be here. And in my case that’s not true … Can I get a show of hands for people who approve what Eric’s trying to do? 1:28:35 mins
Q: What is the biggest misconception about you personally? 1:29:54 min
Q: How would you propose that we all get that happening so we can have this public hearing and we can get it out of the back room and get it in front of everybody so we can all ask our questions, make our statements, make their final decision and move on with life. 1:31:52 mins
Q: Who would be good representative to put up on those council seats that are actually going to get something moving? 1:32:57 mins
Q: Do you own waterfront property on Bedford Channel? 1:36:08 mins
Q: Are you open to being approached by them (council) still? Is there communication? 1:39:38 mins
Q: Who is paying for the hotel being built by the Township and Kwantlen First Nation? 1:42:00 mins
Q: Are you giving up on your hotel? 1:45:38 mins
Q: What is your origin story? 1:46:34 mins