Temporary rules stall expansion of Langley pub

Mo’s Pub & Eatery owners Bob Trenchard and Maureen Cooke listen during a recent Langley Planning Advisory Board meeting regarding rules that would restrict them from expanding.  - Justin Burnett / The Record
Mo’s Pub & Eatery owners Bob Trenchard and Maureen Cooke listen during a recent Langley Planning Advisory Board meeting regarding rules that would restrict them from expanding.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / The Record

The adoption of emergency rules that will temporarily restrict Mo’s Pub & Eatery in Langley from expanding has one owner threatening lawsuit.

Bob Trenchard, who with Maureen Cooke owns Mo’s Pub & Eatery, said he believes they are being targeted by the city and that its latest action will likely have consequences. The owners are now considering closing up shop, and at the very least, he plans to investigate legal options.

“I will be talking to an attorney,” said a fuming Trenchard, outside City Hall following a Monday meeting of the council.

“This is bull$*%#,” he said.

“I’m definitely being singled out, I’m being harassed,” he said.

On Monday, the council approved in an unanimous 3-0 vote a set of interim zoning regulations designed to protect residential neighborhoods from potentially incompatible land uses — in this case taverns, liquor bars and lounges.

City officials say the rules are sweeping and apply to several businesses in town, but pub problems are the impetus behind the new regulations.

Although the popular nighttime hangout has earned a reputation as an economic success story for Langley, it’s also the source of constant grumbling from nearby residents.

Their concerns range from complaints of noisy patrons and late night traffic related issues, such as parking cars and roaring motorcycles, to health issues and a decrease in property values.

The problems have been exacerbated by Trenchard’s and Cooke’s plans to expand the business by enclosing the porch on the east side of the building.

While they claim it will decrease noise from the business, residents are saying no way.

Mary Jo McArdle said she has nothing against the pub, saying it’s a great business. Unfortunately, it’s located in a residential area and significantly impacts nearby homeowners, she said.

“I can’t enjoy my own house because of Mo’s,” McArdle said. “At some stage, there has to be a balancing act.”

“As a resident, I feel like I’m a contributor to this community as well,” she said.

City officials have tried to mitigate some of the problem, such as adoption of a residential parking-permit system on parts of Second Street.

As for the larger noise problem, the Langley Planning Advisory Board was tasked with drafting regulations that will ensure that incompatible businesses aren’t established in residential areas in the future.

There are rules in place now that are based on a buffer system. They prohibit bars within 30 feet of a residence.

According to Jeff Arango, director of Community Planning, it was enough to keep a bar from opening there for many years. Formerly, the building was the Rebeccas  Hall.

Arango said Cooke knew about the restriction, that she had signed a document in 2003 that indicated her understanding that a bar would not be allowed in that area.

Mo’s was opened a little over a year ago when a past planner interpreted the regulations in a different way, Arango said. Instead of measuring the distance from the edge of the building to the property line, the planner used the distance from the bar itself inside the pub.

However, coming up with clearer rules hasn’t been an easy process and it isn’t finished. During the planning group’s meeting earlier this month, board members discussed the issue at length but ultimately tabled the issue for additional discussion.

The delay became a source of concern because development applications are processed under the rules that are in place at the time they are submitted. Even if new regulations are adopted before the application is fully processed, they can be applied to the proposal under review.

Interim regulations are one of the only tools available to decision makers to head off applications for developments or activities that are undesired.

“The purpose of this regulation is to call time out … and frankly to make sure no one is vested with an application under the current law,” said Mayor Larry Kwarsick, during Monday’s meeting.

Although temporary, they can be adopted without having to hold an immediate public hearing and the usually two-week public notification period required for ordinance changes.

In this case, they have effectively hobbled any immediate chance of the pub expanding under the current rules because they expressly prohibit them from being located next to single-family residential homes.

Kwarsick said during the meeting that the rules would also apply to other businesses as well as Mo’s, such as the Inn at Langley. Trenchard said he felt he and Cooke were being singled out.

“This is another ordinance focused on Mo’s, I don’t care what anybody says,” Trenchard said.

Kwarsick added that the present situation is problematic but doesn’t believe it intentional. This is simply a problem of a specific type of business being located in an inappropriate area. No one is at fault, but the city is responsible for finding a solution, he said.

“I think this is an important first step to accomplish that,” Kwarsick said.

Council members Rene Neff, Jim Sundberg and Bruce Allen all voted in support of the interim regulations. Councilmen Hal Seligson and Doug Allderdice were not present.

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