City of Langley examines potential land swap near marina

LANGLEY — City officials are exploring the idea of a land swap that would lead to the rerouting of Wharf Street along the Edgecliff bluff near the Langley marina.

Langley planners presented an overview of the proposed land trade to the city council earlier this week. The basics: a 1:1 land trade with the Drake family and Brian Stowell, the owners of two properties on the west edge of Wharf Street, with the private land becoming the location of a new street extension along the base of the bluff. The city would later try to get a $248,000 grant from Island County shifted from an earlier proposal to widen Wharf Street to pay instead for the new plan.

Council members have given an initial nod to city staff to keep working on the trade, but also warned that any development design for the project must steer clear of plopping parking spots near the shore. Preliminary drawings shown to the council at their meeting Monday depicted new parking slots near the water’s edge.

Council members wondered why they should OK any idea that would lead to more of the same: a line of parked cars along the shore.

“Why are we moving the road if we are going right back to cars?” asked Councilwoman Fran Abel.

“For me, that’s a deal breaker,” she said.

The idea to move Wharf Street to create better access to the marina isn’t new; it was talked about almost two years ago when the city adopted new guidelines for development in the marina area.

An essential ingredient of any land swap there, however, has always been willing land owners.

Planning Director Larry Cort told the council this week that private property owners near the marina have paid for a survey of the land, and a bottom-line review for a fair trade shows the swap was “very workable.”

Even so, initial drawings made by local architect Ron Kasprisin of the marina area after it was developed found few fans.

Some questioned if the turnaround spot for vehicles towing boat trailers was adequate, and if early design work was realistic given the cramped conditions of the marina area.

“Not everybody who is driving a big trailer behind them knows what they are doing,” said Port of South Whidbey Commissioner Chris Jerome.

Port officials have pressed the city to keep its design plans flexible for Wharf Street, a key concern for the port as it works to expand the marina. Jerome also said the city’s search for solutions on parking has to extend beyond Wharf Street.

“The solution is not down here,” he said.

Marianne Edain of the Whidbey Environmental Action Network said she was worried about impacts to the Edgecliff bluff if Wharf Street were rerouted, and that climate change should be considered.

“Sea rise is real,” she said, adding that open space is better than buildings next to the shore.

“I prefer to see a park there. Because parks under water are probably less dangerous than residential buildings under water,” she said.

Edain said more study is needed.

“I’d want to do some serious modeling on projected sea level rise and how that will affect what’s going on down there,” Edain said.

After getting a green light from the council to continue working on the land swap proposal, city staff said they will now examine exactly how much property would change hands, talk to the property owners, and get feedback from Island County’s Council of Governments on the potential for shifting county grant money to the project.

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