Langley council stands by decision to approve Langley Passage

LANGLEY — The city council won't rethink its decision to approve the controversial Langley Passage housing project.

Council members on Monday unanimously rejected a request filed last week by opponents of the proposed 20-lot subdivision, who claimed the council had made multiple legal errors when approving the preliminary plan for the new neighborhood on April 5. The Whidbey Environmental Action Network and the Langley Critical Area Alliance, a group of neighbors to the subdivision and others worried about potential impacts to the crumbling bluff along Edgecliff Drive, had asked the council to reinstate the decision made by city officials late last year to reject the subdivision.

But council members said that one about-face was enough.

Councilman Hal Seligson said he would stand by the council's most recent decision on Langley Passage — the vote that gave a green light to the project but added additional conditions on the new neighborhood of single-family homes, including the relocation of the route of new utility lines away from a wetland on the property.

"I believe the decision that was made most recently by the council is correct," Seligson said.

"I also feel that way," added Councilwoman Rene Neff.

"I think that we've all done the very best that we could possibly do in this situation, and I think we need to move forward," Neff said.

Opponents of the project had hoped the council would reconsider its vote earlier this month to approve the plan for the subdivision. WEAN and the Langley Critical Area Alliance had claimed that the city council and staff made multiple "obvious legal errors" during the process to approve the preliminary plat for Langley Passage, and said the developer's plan to install utility lines in a driveway on an adjoining property would damage a nearby wetland.

The opponents also alleged that the city's handling of the development was illegal, and accused city staff of "egregious misconduct" during their environmental review of the change in the location for water and sewer lines that would serve the housing project.

Councilman Robert Gilman, however, said the city's attorney on the case said the city had acted properly.

In an April 15 memo to city officials, attorney Carol Morris dismissed the allegations made by WEAN and the Langley Critical Area Alliance, and said opponents were wrong to conclude that the council's vote to reject the project on Nov. 1 was final.

"I agree with Carol's analysis on the crucial question of whether or not the action that we took on Nov. 1 was legal," Gilman said.

Citing earlier court cases, Morris said the council vote on a preliminary plat was not final until written "findings of fact" on the decision are adopted by the council.

Though the city council initially rejected Langley Passage in November, it never adopted official findings, and the city restarted talks with the developer after lawyers for the builder, Whidbey Neighborhood Partners, said the city had failed to follow its own procedures for reviewing appeals and threatened a lawsuit.

Morris said the opponents hadn't shown where legal errors had occurred that could lead to the council reconsidering its decision to approve the project.

City officials also noted that opponents could still press their legal points with an appeal to superior court.

"I'm convinced that we did the best we could," said Councilman Bob Waterman.

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