When Linda Bongat saw someone had painted the house on Mary Avenue near Church Street a bright shade of pink and positioned some plastic pink flamingos on the front lawn, she wondered whether it had something to do with the annual cranberry festival in Fort Langley.
Then she found out the current owner of the property, Eric Woodward, had ordered the paint job to register his frustration with the Township of Langley over the way it has handled his application to demolish the house.
“It was kind of bizarre,” she said.
“It was a little upsetting.”
Woodward wants to demolish that house and a number of other structures on the site to make way for his Glover Road West project a new multi-use building that will mid residential and retail with a boutique hotel.
He says officials at the Township of Langley have refused to issue a permit for the demolition of the house and several other soon-to-be-vacated buildings on the 1.39 acre site at Glover Road and Mary Avenue unless he meets several conditions that he considers unreasonable.
Among them, a requirement that he apply for an Heritage Alteration Permit (HAP) that would require council permission before demolition could proceed, with fees that can be up to $1,100 per permit request.
Woodward said he was also told he would have to prepare a Tree Protection Plan for each property.
It is not the first time Woodward and Township planners have been at odds.
He has noted municipal planners did not support his Coulter Berry building, but their objections were overridden by council.
“The subject property is within a heritage conservation area, so section 615 of the local government act declares a heritage alteration permit before you alter a building within that area,” said Stephen Richardson, Township director of development services. “So it’s an item that comes directly from provincial legislation when the local government has enacted a heritage conservation area.”
For Bongat, the newly pink house is a source of happy memories of growing up in Fort Langley.
Her father built the one-and-a-half-storey house back in the 1930s, before she was born.
“My dad built it for his father-in-law and sister-in law.”
Bongat grew up in the house next to it.
The little log cabin behind the white house was built as a playhouse for her and her young sister Denise (Gray), Bongat said.
The house was built during the “Dirty ’30s” when the Canadian economy was in a deep depression.
Someone had started construction and got as far as pouring a concrete basement foundation before work halted.
Then the Brown family bought the half-completed house and set about finishing it.
“We always wondered why it was built in the middle of two lots.”
Her memories of the place include the steep, narrow rustic staircase with no handrail that connected the main floor to the two attic bedrooms, and the pot-bellied stove in the kitchen that was eventually replaced with something more modern.
“It was very modest,” she said.
But it had a reputation for above-average gardening.
“The gardens were compared to the Butchart gardens,” she said.
“My uncle was featured in the local paper for his Begonias.”
The last Brown family member to live in small house was an aunt who married a widower late in life.
When the couple passed away, the house was left in their will to 15 people, who agreed to sell it and share the proceeds.
The people who bought the property later re-sold it to Woodward.
She is not happy that the house is now a bright shade of pink.
“It’s just kind of disrespectful” she said.
But she is quick to add that she doesn’t dispute Woodward’s right to do what he wants with his own property and likes some of the buildings Woodward put up in Fort Langley.
“I don’t have a beef with him at all,” she said.
She now lives in Clayton, near the Surrey-Langley border, but her business requires her to make semi-regular trips back to the community she considers home.
“To me, my heart is in Fort Langley” she said.
“It always has been.”