About 30 people staged a mostly silent protest against the Coulter Berry building project in Langley Township council chambers on Monday night.
Other than a few muttered groans when Mayor Jack Froese talked about attending the sod-turning for the controversial Fort Langley building, the demonstrators sat quietly in the audience.
Many wore a bright yellow outline drawing of an outstretched hand with the message “Protect your Village … Respect Heritage Guidelines.”
The protest was organized by the Langley Heritage Society, which is conducting a petition campaign that asks opponents of Coulter Berry to trace the outline of their hand.
The society has been collecting the hands on weekends at the heritage CN train station it operates on the corner of Mavis Street and Glover Road in Fort Langley.
“The response has been great,” said Ted Lightfoot, a society director, who estimated about 600 hands have been collected over the past month.
“We needed something that would be more than a signature on a page,” Lightfoot told The Times.
“When you’re tracing your hand, you’re making more of a commitment.”
Down the road, the society is thinking about creating a mural or walkway of some kind to display all of the collected hands, Lightfoot said.
He said the society decided to stage a polite protest in council chambers to “show them that our presence was there and also we have a tremendous response from the community.”
Lightfoot said the society is not involved in a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit filed by a different group, the Fort Langley Residents for Sustainable Development, that seeks to overturn the council decision approving the building.
“I don’t think we would be wanting to give an opinion [on the court case] at this point” Lightfoot said.
Township council approved a heritage alteration permit for the project by a 7-1 vote in November of last year, allowing it to exceed development guidelines for the area.
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 set by the Fort Langley Building Facade Guidelines.
The building also has a lot coverage of 67 per cent, when only 60 per cent is usually the limit.
Lightfoot said the society is only objecting to the size of the building design, which he said has a number of positive features.
“It’s just way too big,” Lightfoot said.
“Knock off a floor [and scale back the lot coverage] and it would be within the guidelines.”
Lightfoot said if one builder is allowed to exceed the size restrictions, others will want the same and the result will be the erosion of Fort Langley’s unique character.
“We want to keep this unique and charming and to scale” Lightfoot said.
The society is also conducting an online campaign at www.handsonheritage.ca.