Langley Passage hearing continues Tuesday

Though the Langley City Council made a dramatic about-face at its last meeting on its decision to reject the preliminary plan for Langley Passage, the proponents of the new housing project aren’t ready to say it marks a reversal of fortune for the embattled subdivision.

“Whether we won or lost isn’t finally established yet,” said Doug Kelly, an attorney representing Whidbey Neighborhood Partners, the developer of the 20-home subdivision on the city’s northeastern end.

“I was encouraged by their decision. We’ll await their final determination,” he said.

Council members unanimously rescinded their rejection of the project’s plan on March 22 in a meeting that was called after threats of a lawsuit by the developer’s attorneys.

The city council will hold a special meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, to consider its next steps. The council is expected to decide on a request brought by opponents of the project, the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, to limit the evidence that has been submitted in the case, and to take a final vote on the preliminary plat.

Opponents of the project have complained that the developer has submitted new plans for routing utility lines, and have said the city should have asked the developer to submit a new application for the project.

Attorneys for the developer, however, have noted that the idea to move water and sewer lines was a suggestion made by city officials.

The issue was a key one in the council’s rejection of the earlier plan. Council members, and opponents, have raised concern about the preliminary plan because  a new waterline would have   punched through the protective buffer of the wetland on the Langley Passage property.

The developer has now proposed putting the needed water and sewer mains within a 15-foot-wide easement on a neighboring parcel.

The new sewer line would start where the existing line ends near Noble Court, then stretch through the proposed easement to the north end of the Langley Passage property.

In a memo to city staff, Community Planner Jeff Arango said both the routes for the water and sewer lines meet the goals and requirements of the city’s utility plans and regulations.

According to Bob Snyder, the city’s building official, the construction of new utility lines for Langley Passage would be exempt from regulations that protect environmentally sensitive areas. That’s because the new lines would be installed within the existing right-of-way for Edgecliff Drive, and also beneath an existing private driveway.

That was also the view of Island County Planning Director Bob Pederson, who reviewed the revised utility plan at the request of the city. Pederson also said the installation of the new lines was exempt from environmental regulations.

At next week’s meeting, opponents of the project are expected to claim the driveway that would be dug up for the installation of the new utility lines is a wetland, though it isn’t currently classified as one, that was altered when property owners developed the land.

That land is owned by Sieb Jurriaans, and has been the center of an ongoing neighbor dispute prompted by some residents in the neighborhood who have been critical of landscaping activities on the property.

City officials have said that the driveway where the new utility lines would be placed was constructed before the city adopted its critical areas regulations. And based on a consultant’s report prepared by wetlands experts, city staff issued a decision last year that said that no other wetlands are near the location of the proposed utility easement.

The revised utility plan passed an environmental review and has been approved by city staff on March 9.

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