UPDATE: A tiny community scrutinizes a proposed film studio

Nobody will ever make a movie about the next step in the evolution of the Fraser Valley’s film industry: local council and board meetings.

By Tyler Olsen | January 9, 2023 |5:00 am

Jan. 9, 2023 UPDATE:

Eighteen months ago, an animation film company sent tiny Lake Errock into a tizzy when it unveiled its plan to build a large new studio overlooking Harrison Bay.

The reaction from residents delayed the plans, but now the idea is back and slated to head for an official public hearing in the months to come.

Arcana Film Studio produces films heavily reliant on special effects, and describes the property as a “director’s retreat.”

But the directors wouldn’t be alone on the 13-acre property, which is accessed via Bayview Road. The retreat, as planned, would include a 10,000-square-foot soundstage, a 15,000-square-foot studio, and a 7,000-square-foot production office.

The Coquitlam-based studio would also relocate a 40-year-old home to another location on the property for use as a production house. Productions would last up to three weeks, with large films hosting more than 100 employees at a time.

A different type of audience 

Arcana’s plans first surfaced last spring and sparked a blizzard of local attention. To proceed, the Fraser Valley Regional District must agree to rezone the property. Lake Errock only has around 300 residents. Around 80 people attended a public information meeting held by the company at the start of the process. The FVRD was also inundated by resident’s written comments.

Residents were concerned about the traffic, the effects on Bayview Road, impact on neighbours, retention of trees, parking and the possibility of future expansion. The idea was “somewhat controversial,” an FVRD director acknowledged at a December meeting. (It would also increase the commercial tax base of Electoral Area C, in which Lake Errock sits. The property’s current assessed value is $1.9 million. It was bought for $1.4 million in 2020)

After the meeting, the applicant asked the FVRD to create a film-production-specific zone just for the project. Arcana hopes that will address concerns that the property could eventually be used for non-filming purposes like cannabis production.

Another public information meeting was held last October. In December, the proposal finally returned to the FVRD’s board of directors. The next stage is for the proposal to head to an official public hearing, where the community’s residents will get a chance to speak on the project. After that hearing, it will be up to the FVRD board to decide whether a film studio in Lake Errock will become a reality. A date for a hearing has not yet been set.

🗺 Google Earth Pro/Tyler Olsen

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Originally published July 15, 2021

Nobody will ever make a movie about the next step in the evolution of the Fraser Valley’s film industry: local council and board meetings.

The region has long played host to roving film crews looking for a combination of good locations and the best tax credits the province has to offer film crews. (There are extra tax credits for filming east of 200 Street.) Now, 2 different companies are looking to set up permanent studios in the region. That, though, is where the similarities end.

In Langley, Martini Studios has proposed building one of the largest film studios in Canada just south of Highway 1. The company wants to pave over 30 acres of land to create 16 sound stages at 216 Street and 83 Avenue. Martini Studios currently has 3 studio spaces in the Port Kells area, and has worked on Netflix shows such as The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Another Life.

The whole facility would be more than 730,000 square feet. A light industrial area would also be created just south of the studio. The proposal was first brought to the township 6 years ago, and a public survey in June showed most of the 56 respondents were supportive of the project, which would also include a large stormwater detention pond and public trail. A few expressed concern about the impact of large industrial-style buildings in a largely residential neighbourhood.

The Township of Langley council has given two readings to the proposal. It will now accept written submissions from citizens before a decision is made on whether to approve the project at the next council meeting. Site clearing and environmental work could start as soon as this August. The fourth and final reading for the proposal would take place after site clearing, and building construction could get underway as soon as April 2022.

Meanwhile, residents in the sleepy Lake Errock area still have doubts after an information meeting about a proposed film studio in their area. A Coquitlam-based animation film company wants to build a studio and soundstage on a remote property overlooking Harrison Bay. The proposal is small as film studios go, Arcana Film Studio says, as its productions are heavily reliant on special effects. But the facility would be huge on a Lake Errock scale, with a 10,000-sq.-ft. soundstage, 15,000-sq.-ft. production studio, 7,000-sq.-ft. office, and 5,000-sq.-ft. house all proposed for the site. The Current reported in April that residents had sent a barrage of feedback in opposition to the proposal when they first heard about it. Read that story here.

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Arcana held a virtual information meeting in May, at which it laid out its plans to around 80 attendees. At a Fraser Valley Regional District meeting last week, a planner for the company said Arcana would also be willing to allow a covenant to be placed on the property restricting expansions to the facility.

Arcana may hold another public information meeting in the fall. The Fraser Valley Regional District, which has planning jurisdiction over the area, would also still need to hold a public hearing on rezoning the land before any decision is made. No such meeting has been set yet.

Tyler Olsen

Managing Editor at Fraser Valley Current

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