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City releases draft settlement on Fairgrounds Road

LANGLEY — The proposed settlement between Langley, the county and the Island County Fair Board may resolve many of the concerns over Fairgrounds Road that fair organizers have raised for more than a year.

The city announced the settlement last week. In a draft agreement obtained by The Record through a public records request Monday, the four-page document states how issues ranging from water run-off at the fairgrounds, to potential noise complaints, to a rezone of the fairgrounds property will be handled.

The final agreement itself may look different, however.

Mayor Neil Colburn warned that the document has already undergone some minor changes as county and city lawyers work to formulate a legally binding contract.

“Lawyers from the county and from the city have made subsequent requests for additional clarification, and changes,” Colburn explained.

Deal reached

City officials announced April 23 that the county, city and the fair board had come to an “agreement in principle” to end the long-running feud over the construction of a city street across the county fairgrounds. The fight over Fairgrounds Road, a proposed connector street that would lessen traffic troubles on Langley’s developing southern end, had dragged on for more than a year.

Until lawyers for the city and county have completed their review of the proposed settlement, the agreement remains unsigned. The commissioners are not expected to vote on the agreement until Wednesday, May 2 at the earliest.

Once finalized, the city will get an easement across the public fairgrounds for Fairgrounds Road. In exchange, Langley will abandon its condemnation lawsuit in Superior Court for the land needed for the street.

‘No gripes’

According to the draft agreement, dated April 18, there will be some minor changes for new neighbors of the fairgrounds.

Newcomers will be given a “No Gripe Coming” notice when they buy a home, warning them that they live near the fairgrounds where the county fair and livestock events are held regularly. The document will be patterned after similar rules the county has in place for property owners near the Navy’s Outlying Field and the Ebey’s Prairie historic preserve.

Fair officials have been concerned in the past that as development in Langley continues, fair operations may be suffocated by complaints by neighbors.

In the proposed agreement, the city and the county also agreed that construction and fair operations won’t interfere with each other as development of the Highlands gets underway. The developer of the Highlands will make sure that vehicles such as horse trailers can still use the south entrance to the fair on a number of occasions between May and August.

The developer also has to make sure that the flat area of the road easement will be cleared and usable from Aug. 6 through Aug. 20. Construction can resume on Aug. 21, two days after the end of this year’s fair.

Under the terms of the agreement, Langley must also give the county proof that the city has already obtained an easement for Fairgrounds Road on the other side of the fairgrounds property. Some road opponents had questioned whether the developer had gotten the other easements needed for the road. However, the easement in dispute was recorded with the county in March by the developer.

According to the agreement, a copy of the easement was delivered to the county along with the settlement agreement.

When Commissioner Mike Shelton and Colburn meet in May with city and county engineers to finalize the engineering plans, they will discuss the exact route of the road, as well as making sure that carnival vehicles have enough space to get on and off the fairgrounds effortlessly.

The city will also agree on proper signage on the eastbound lane of Fairgrounds Road to signal drivers that they are approaching the fairgrounds entrance.

The engineering meeting isn’t planned until mid-May, due to scheduling issues.

The draft agreement also states the city will extend the main sewer line along Langley Road to the fairgrounds to service the RV dump station at the fairgrounds if the county requests the extension.

The stormwater system for the new road, which had been a major complaint from some fair supporters, will consist of open, grassy swales as the new street climbs the bluff at the edge of the fairgrounds property. Stormwater will be sent underground as it crosses the flat part of the fairgrounds.

The city will be responsible for any damage to the fairgrounds due to the construction or design of the stormwater system, according to the agreement.

The city also promised to support the county in efforts to get the zoning of the fairgrounds changed, according to the agreement.

The fair board and the county have talked in the past about expanding the permitted uses, and some suggestions have been controversial, such as the introduction of motor sports races. Fair board chairman Dan Ollis said this week ideas such as a race track have been already taken off the table.

The city also promised to provide removable fencing near the new road, to build a retaining wall for the manure pile at the fairgrounds, and to allow only underground utilities within the road easement. The city also said it would close Fairgrounds Road from Monday through Monday during fair time. The county will also be able to ask for the road to be closed at other times if it seeks a special permit for a closure.

After the draft agreement was announced last week, city and county officials stressed their commitment to the agreement and welcomed the opportunity to work together on fair related projects in the future.

The city and the county hammered out the deal in two weeks of low-key negotiations. Shelton was the driving force behind the settlement, people on both sides of the dispute said.

Ollis said the fair board voted for the agreement last week, and the decision has since been praised by city and county officials and community members alike.

A planned demonstration over the road impasse Saturday turned into a celebration instead that attracted nearly three dozen people. Some city and fair leaders participated in the walk.

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