|A packed house with standing room only at last night's meeting.|
Last night I was a speaker and panellist at a public meeting hosted by the Fort Langley Community Association about new development proposals in the Fort. The meeting was packed. While there were four proposals that were up for conversation, the real focus of the evening was on the Coulter Berry Building which is a proposed mixed-use development. Most people in the room last night seemed to support the Coulter Berry Building proposal as it will contribute to Fort Langley’s pedestrian–friendly core by keeping parking underground, providing retail and much needed local office space, plus residential housing which is sorely needed in the core. While I’d be happy to see this building in Downtown Langley and most people want to see this building in Fort Langley, there were some in the room that were opposed to the project. The reason stated was because the building will violate an old guideline for the area which says that a building should “not exceed two storeys or 9 metres.” While that was the stated reason for opposition to the project, I think the real reason is these people are opposed to any change in Fort Langley. The problem with this argument is that no change in a community means that a community is no longer healthy. If nothing changes or gets updated, it means that community is dying or is dead.
The first speaker of the evening was Robert Inwood who is a design consultant and heritage specialist. He was actually responsible for developing Fort Langley’s Building Guidelines. He talked about his work in other community in BC and how he designed a three-story building that fit nicely into a commercial core that was similar to Fort Langley. He though that a three-story building would fit just fine in Fort Langley. His biggest complaint about Fort Langley was that there was a lack of authenticity in some “heritage” design that has occurred in the community and would like to see authentic design that integrates local motifs.
Terry Lyster who was the Director of Planning for the Township of Langley during the time Fort Langley’s Building Guidelines were developed talked about how guidelines are just that: guidelines. He noted guidelines were merely a starting point and are subject to being tweaked during any development process. Terry Lyster said that if we followed Fort Langley’s guidelines like the Bible, Bedford Landing would be a window factory and restaurants like Beatniks would not have been allowed to open. He talked about all the other different variances that have been allowed over the years and mentioned that there are already three-story buildings in the Fort.
I talked about how diversity is important in communities and the importance of a good pedestrian-public realm. Projects that support a diversity of housing and transportation option get a mark of approval by me.
It was certainly an interesting meeting last night and I hope people gained some insight about sustainable community design and development.