Langley City Council approves agreement on park-and-ride

LANGLEY — City officials are closer to inking a deal with the Langley Christian Missionary Alliance Church that would turn the church’s parking lot into a public park-and-ride lot that can handle overflow parking from downtown and the marina.

At the council meeting this week, council members gave conditional approval to a 25-year contract between the city and the church that paves the way for a $480,000 makeover of the parking lot.

The plan to improve the privately-owned parking lot hit a rough patch in November, when environmental activists asked the city council to shelve the project, which critics called an unneeded and costly “boondoggle” that would harm Brookhaven Creek. While council members later grudgingly gave their support to the park-and-ride project after meetings with city staff, progress was nearly stalled again this week when opponents once more raised concerns.

In a letter to the council, Kittrell McCord said the project — which includes paving the existing gravel lot, new lights, landscaping and drainage improvements — would pollute the city’s aquifer and destroy the wildlife corridor along the creek.

Marianne Edain of the Whidbey Environmental Action Network said she saw numerous flaws in the legal agreement, and in a letter to council members said the agreement was “a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

Edain said the contract needed greater clarity, with definitions and specifics about who is responsible for maintenance after the project is completed.

Council members echoed some of those concerns, and also complained that the project had gone before the city’s Design Review Board a week earlier for a discussion of the new lot’s site design, lighting and landscaping.

McCord said the new lot would lead to “urban blight.”

“This is our back yard,” she told the council.

“I think it’s really important that the church understand what they are getting into with the maintenance, specifically and dollar-wise,” McCord added.

City officials noted, however, that additional discussions with church officials had led to changes in the agreement. Parking for the public would be extended from weekdays only to include Saturdays, and the church would give 72 hours notice if it needed the lot for special events.

CMA representatives at the meeting said they would not vigorously enforce access to the lot.

Mayor Paul Samuelson agreed.

“You’re not going to have a guard at the gate, saying, are you coming to this special event or not,” Samuelson said.

After changes to the contract were suggested, Councilman Robert Gilman said the agreement should come back to the council at a later meeting after it was reviewed by the city attorney.

“If the attorney is going to make any changes to it, then it’s a different agreement,” Gilman said.

Samuelson was reluctant to have the city attorney review it twice.

“I need you to be specific about the changes that you want us to make. I do not want to take it to the attorney, bring it back, and have you tell us to take it back again,” Samuelson said.

“We have been through this routine for months,” he added. “None of the information that I’m hearing is new information. It’s been addressed over and over again.”

On a 5-0 vote, council members finally agreed to approve the contract, which will go to the mayor for his signature after minor changes by the city attorney.

CMA officials have been reluctant to comment on the newfound controversy concerning the project.

In a written statement to the Record, the Langley Alliance Church Governing Board said they were “somewhat confused by this level of controversy at the eleventh hour.”

Board members said the lot is already used by the public, and noted the church has a long history of working on behalf of the community.

“It is not our nature, nor would it be beneficial to anyone, for us to get into battle of words over the issue,” the statement said. “Admittedly it’s a little frustrating that at this late stage objectors suddenly show up, when we could have been entering into a healthy productive win-win exchange of ideas all along.

“It is our hope that those who object to the project will come around once they really get an understanding of the environmentally friendly features and compatible nature of the project with the neighborhood. The project as planned will be especially environmentally responsible and pleasing to the eye. There have been years of careful planning and design by the engineering group with numerous alterations in order to best meet the environmental concerns and the needs of those who might be affected,” the statement said.

“As we see it, the planned park-and-ride will only benefit the residents of Langley. We are more than happy to work with those who have objections, but they must understand that it is too late to re-engineer the project.”

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