Ex-councillor slams apology demand from owner of properties at centre of demolition debate
Township council set to vote on fate of boarded-up properties Monday evening
A long-simmering debate over boarded-up properties in Fort Langley is set to conclude on Monday evening.
Township of Langley council is expected to vote on a "heritage alteration permit", which, if approved, would allow Statewood Properties to demolish buildings at eight properties.
They're all within two blocks of each other in the historic village on the south bank of the Fraser River, and Statewood is proposing that the area be converted into green space before the land is eventually redeveloped.
But there are additional factors that have heightened the tension in this particular development debate.
Statewood Properties is owned by Eric Woodward, a councillor in Fort Langley elected for the first time last October.
He has recused himself from the public discussion. But through his lawyer, Woodward sent a letter to a former councillor demanding an apology for what he says are misleading claims about his position.
'Intimidate and stifle discussion'
The letter was sent to Angie Quaale, who was a Langley councillor until last year.
When the public hearing for the demolitions took place in July, Quaale expressed her disagreement with the plans because of Woodward's position and the lack of detail around future developments.
"I was participating in a process that is open to all of the citizens in our community," said Quaale.
"Maybe he didn't like the response. I don't believe that warranted a letter from a lawyer telling me that I was defaming him."
Quaale says she won't be apologizing and decided to speak out because she's worried others could be sent letters from Woodward's lawyer.
She claims Woodward's actions "are meant to intimidate and stifle discussion around interests around development applications and critical matters of public interest in our community."
"Who's going to step forward if they're running this risk?" she said.
'Shamelessly smearing a political opponent'
Woodward has been in the process of transferring the properties to a new, non-profit foundation since he ran for office last year.
He didn't want to discuss the specifics of what he found libellous about Quaale's letter, but he defended his actions, saying her comments were false and go back to last year's election campaign.
"What we have here is clear enough: an ex-politician who lost in the last election, now shamelessly smearing a political opponent who won a council seat where she did not," he wrote in a statement, adding that he had a "very high tolerance for criticism."
In a further interview, he said the transfer of the land to the new foundation was ahead of schedule, and that he was doing everything required to "address the long-term concerns around conflict of interest with me."
Vote on Monday
It's unclear how Monday's vote will proceed, but the debate has gone on ever since Woodward had the buildings boarded up over the course of two years for a variety of reasons.
While none of the affected buildings, built in the 1950s and 60s, are on the municipality's heritage register, Woodward acknowledged that Fort Langley has always cherished its historic feel.
"You can always expect some controversy in Fort Langley, I think, for a lot of applications. There's a lot of passionate people that live here and might want to have a say in the direction of the village," he said.
Woodward added that he's hopeful for a quick resolution, "one way or the other."
Meanwhile, Quaale worries what kind of precedent the letter from Woodward's lawyer has set.
"I'm just shocked that this is going on in our community," she said.