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Interest in waterfront development is growing

Nichols Bros. puts new clause in agreement with Langley

LANGLEY — As new developers eye prime waterfront near Langley’s Wharf Street, longtime property owners are launching their own building projects or positioning themselves to develop their seaside land in the future.

Nichols Brothers Boatbuilders, for example, has introduced a new clause in its contract with the city of Langley that would allow for additional uses of their commercial property near the small boat harbor.

The company primarily uses its Langley facility to complete the outfitting of vessels, to make repairs and to conduct sea trials and boat christenings.

But according to the revised agreement, the company would also allow marina and condo owners to use their dock.

“There is a possibility of them and the port doing something together and letting them use the dock,” said City Administrator Walt Blackford.

There is a chance that Nichols Brothers and the Port of South Whidbey may collaborate in future projects, Blackford said. The port will take over the city marina in January of 2009 and is expected to be a major player in the waterfront area.

It also means if the boat-building company decides to shrink or discontinue its work on the property, it can be used for other things.

“What I think Mr. Nichols is saying is, if I retain my property and decide to develop, maybe build condos, the condo owners can also use the dock,” Blackford said.

Matt Nichols, CEO of Nichols Brothers, said there are no specific plans for changing the use of the Nichols Brothers facility at the moment, however.

Nichols also allows the city to use the dock for emergency response via the water.

Next Wednesday, the Langley City Council will vote on the operational agreement between the city and Nichols Brothers, a document that is updated every

10 years. An agreement with the city has existed since 1997.

However, the city is expected to reserve its right to renegotiate the agreement in case permit applications for new condos are be submitted.

Blackford said the city included the clause to be able to address space and infrastructure problems that could come from a development proposal.

“If it’s not a commercial facility anymore and the their employee parking would be taken up by condos, we can say, ‘What’s the plan?’” he said.

Second meeting on Stowell project

The interest in development on Langley’s shoreline is reaching the high-water mark.

City officials have said development could bring an economic boost to Langley, and developers interested in shoreside development have had informal talks with Langley in recent months.

Colorado-based developer Brian Stowell caused a stir when he recently suggested building a mixed-use building that could house a restaurant, businesses, office space and condos on Wharf Street.

Talks with with city officials led to the idea of including the bluff behind Stowell’s property in the development plan and enhancing public access to the waterfront. But the idea has since been met with mixed emotions by the public.

Stowell owns a small parcel of land on Wharf Street and has the option to buy Drake’s Landing.

Langleyites have been torn between wanting to revitalize the waterfront while still protecting the scenic view of the water from Cascade Avenue.

Stowell has held one public meeting already to get input from locals. A second meeting is planned for 7 p.m. on Aug. 14 at the United Methodist Church in Langley.

Stowell said this week the meeting will focus on introducing public access concepts that stem from comments from the last meeting. The meeting will also cover the vision for the waterfront that’s laid out in the city’s current growth plan, the small boat harbor and environs master plan, the shoreline management program, and what’s possible under existing zoning.

Another developer to make a pitch

Stowell is not alone in his desire to build on the waterfront.

Mayor Neil Colburn hinted earlier that another developer was interested in developing at the waterfront.

“The other person who expressed interest has said that he wants to come and make a presentation to the council by the late summer,” Colburn said at a recent city council meeting.

He has since declined to name that person, stressing that no proposals have been submitted to the city.

Colburn also said the person does not own the property yet, but has the option to buy.

Boatyard Inn wants to expand

Existing businesses are also looking to expand on the waterfront.

Langley’s Planning Advisory Board approved a proposal Wednesday by the Boatyard Inn owners to expand their business and add a new building with two floor levels.

The new building will have about 1,800 square feet on two floor levels. It will house a new breakfast room and hotel reception area and another hotel suite. Other improvements include landscaping, parking and public beach access.

Next Wednesday, the city council will vote on the Boatyard Inn expansion project.

City council looks at shoreline plan

The city council decided last week to look into ways to better address the challenges and possibilities of building on Langley’s waterfront.

City leaders have asked the Planning Advisory Board to take a look at the Shoreline Master Plan.

“People are definitely trying to do some development down there. We need clear guidelines to deal with these proposals,” said Councilwoman Rene Neff.

Fear and misinformation have dominated the discussion around town so far, city officials said.

“A look at the plan might alleviate people’s fears,” Neff said.

City planner Larry Cort agreed.

“The Planning Advisory Board is looking for a good project, something juicy to sink their teeth in,” Cort said.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15.

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