Port kills condo plan

Commissioners: Not enough space for developer’s project

FREELAND — Port commissioners said this week the master plan for rebuilding the Langley Marina is too much, too expensive, too tall and too big.

The Port of South Whidbey has decided to eliminate multi-story buildings capped with condominiums from its development plan for the public property.

At a design review workshop Monday, Port Commissioner Rolf Seitle said the idea of a public/private partnership with Colorado developer Brian Stowell to build condos at the water’s edge was unrealistic.

It took a tale of the tape. Over the weekend, Seitle brought a tape measure to the harbor and took a few measurements.

“The amount of usable property in the uplands is only 75 by 180 feet,” Seitle said. “Mr. Stowell has said that to make the project financially feasible he needs at least 22,000 square feet of residential space.”

By contrast, The Inn at Langley has roughly 15,000 square feet.

“We need to regroup because there isn’t enough space in the current plan,” Seitle said.

Seitle then outlined a revised design concept which he termed Phase One.

First, the new breakwater now tied next to the marina palisade should be anchored at its permanent location to the north side of the new marina.

Second, the boat launch must be renovated for immediate use. “A lot of people are expecting us to do exactly that,” he said.

Third, the port will temporarily upgrade Phil Simon Park and the adjacent restrooms and fix any potholes on the property.

Finally, using money from a state environmental fund, the port would remove the abandoned creosote-soaked wharf pilings near the Boatyard Inn.

The conceptual design presented for public review last month envisioned, apart from the marina itself, two multi-story buildings that would be built in a land swap with Stowell. The deal would have traded public property next to the water for the prviately-ownd land where Drake’s Landing bed-and-breakfast sits. Stowell has an option to buy the Drake property.

Some in Langley, however, have raised concerns over development near the shoreline at the marina.

Another key concern on the draft plan for the new marina has centered on money.

“The biggest complaint I heard at the public meeting was how we are going to pay for it all,” Seitle said. “That’s a critical issue that must be addressed and this is a start.”

Although the meeting was not about financing, Port Commissioner Geoff Tapert said acquisition of Drake’s or any other property could be paid with a possible bond issue or levy.

Seitle’s Phase One is a scaled-down version of the original idea.

Though he asked fellow commissioners to consider buying Drake’s Landing, Seitle said the port should stop planning work on the uplands where the two four-story buildings were originally planned and concentrate instead on permits and funding for the new marina.

Port Commissioner Lynae Slinden liked Seitle’ design changes but added that the port must seriously consider the needs of divers and kayakers, perhaps by creating a clustered area suitable for both groups.

“Let’s do the simple things first,” she said.

Redeveloping the uplands portion of the property would likely require the city to ease its rules for developing along the bluff that runs along the marina property — changes that some city officials have said should be put off for later.

“There’s a lack of speed by the city for zoning changes and these are projects we can do soon,” Slinden noted.

Tapert agreed.

“I’m in favor of a permanent location for the breakwater, maybe connecting to the existing marina pier to expand tie-ups during future construction,” he said.

Tapert also said changing direction on the plan made sense because too many questions remain unanswered on developing the shoreline.

Seitle reminded commissioners that Stowell, the developer who has been considering development plans near the marina, also needs to clarify his intentions before the port can do anything.

“If we find that Brian doesn’t exercise his option, we should talk to Christine and Stephanie Drake,” Seitle said.

Port manager Ed Field noted that if the Drake property is not in play, the planned parking area next to the bluff won’t work.

Seitle said relocation of parking along the bluff is a good idea and should be pursued.

Engineering consultant Greg York said revising the plan will work as long as concurrent upgrades aren’t shelved on the uplands portion.

“My concern is that uplands development have to keep up proportionally with activity on the marina,” he said.

“If the uplands are to be a blank slate you can cautiously move forward with the marina, provided there is infrastructure — parking, restrooms, access points — that will support more slips,” he said.

Langley City Councilman Jim Recupero told port commissioners the city needs to know more about the port’s plan for the marina. The city will transfer ownership of the property to the port early next year.

“The council is on board but we all need to meet together to get a better idea of how the plan works,” Recupero said.

“There is a bit of a feeling the council is being excluded, so a meeting would have a tremendously positive effect,” he said.

Later, Langley Mayor Paul Samuelson said the council would like to have a roundtable meeting with the port.

“I’m up for that, a workshop would be beneficial to everyone,” Samuelson said. “It would be great for the community to watch us work.”

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or

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