Langley advisory boards could be stacked with outsiders

LANGLEY — If Mayor Paul Samuelson gets his way, the majority of the city’s advisors could be out-of-towners.

But Samuelson said that’s OK.

“We’re looking for a large involvement by city residents, and know that many outside the city limits love and call Langley their town,” he said.

The Langley City Council is considering changes to the city’s rules that guide the formation of citizen advisory boards, and the revisions include new residency requirements.

At the city council’s last meeting, Kathleen Landel, Samuelson’s assistant, proposed changes designed to bring consistency into the way boards are run. The changes include items such as a process to appoint a new member.

But the changes also outline the number of people who live outside of Langley who can serve on citizen advisory boards. That could mean people living outside the city could guide major decisions about Langley’s future.

The library board, Design Review Board and the cemetery board must have at least two Langley residents.

The new Historic Preservation Commission requires all members to be from Langley except those needed to fill skilled positions. Then Samuelson can approve an exception.

The newly-activated Parks and Open Space Commission will have at least three residents, one member from the urban growth area and one member who may live outside the city limits. Two of those appointed must have specialized skills.

Out of the five voting Planning Advisory Board members, four must be Langley residents and one can live in Langley’s urban growth area.

In many cases, changing the minimum number of Langley residents is a step up, Landel said. Many boards have no residency requirements.

One of the reasons driving the change is the recruitment of qualified volunteers. Many boards have very specific qualifications. For instance, the Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning Advisory Board need professionals such as architects, planners or other experts.

City Councilman Russell Sparkman said he had concerns about the proposed changes.

“I understand the need for diversity,” he said. “But it provides opportunity for people to make decisions that really don’t live here.”

Larry Cort, the city’s planning director, said it’s not uncommon to have non-residents serve on a citizen advisory board.

“Every community I’ve worked in widened its residency requirements. Expanding the pool is almost essential to keep those skilled positions filled,” Cort said.

There is no limit to how many Langleyites can serve on a board.

“That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be more,” Landel explained.

Samuelson also announced that he is officially reactivating the Parks and Open Space Commission.

“I’m excited about the interest being expressed in all the citizen boards,” he said.

“We’ll be bringing the current boards up to full membership and reactivating the parks board,” Samuelson added.

The commission will advise and make recommendations to the city council regarding park and open space assets within the city. The commission will initially focus on revising the parks and open space element of the city’s long-range growth plan.

Samuelson will appoint five commission members, and three of the volunteers must be city residents.

“I encourage anyone to apply who is interested in bringing their expertise and energy to support where we are headed,” Samuelson said.

The city is also looking for people interested in filling three vacancies on the cemetery board and two vacancies on the library board.

Citizen boards and commissions play an important role in advising the city council in its legislative responsibility.

People can apply for one of these positions by submitting a letter of interest, a resume/brief summary of experience and a volunteer application by Tuesday, May 27 to Landel at PO Box 366, Langley, WA 98260 or assistant@langleywa.org.

For additional information and the volunteer application form, visit the city of Langley Web site at www.langleywa.org/whats-new.html or stop by city hall during business hours.