City of Langley to launch a historic preservation program

LANGLEY — The Langley City Council signed off on creating a historic preservation program Wednesday night.

Councilman Bob Waterman, who suggested creating a council committee to push the project forward, was subsequently elected the chairman of the committee.

“In the spirit of how things get done in Langley, I guess it’s best to get a group of people together and just do it,” Waterman said.

Waterman has already been involved in local efforts to preserve the past, and has done some surveying of historic buildings for the South Whidbey Historic Society.

A potential sale and the future of Langley’s iconic Dog House Tavern prompted talk about a historic preservation program in Langley. At Wednesday’s council meeting, city planner Larry Cort set out the steps for creating a historic preservation program.

After a survey and inventory phase, Cort said, cities usually create a local historic register.

The community must then decide if it wants a register that would require the consent of the property owners before properties are listed.

Governments in the Puget Sound area have taken both routes. While Coupeville’s program requires owner consent, King County’s program, which is one of the largest in the state, doesn’t.

Cort also told the council that perks for property owners — such as tax incentives — may make it attractive for owners to participate.

The community also has to make a decision on what they consider “historic.” Generally, a building has to be 50 years old to be considered historic.

“In Langley that would be half of the town,” Waterman said.

Waterman also warned that not all people find a historic designation for their home appealing. Some fear such a label could limit changes to their properties in the future.

Cort said the community and the city have a range of options, however, from measures as varied as simply requiring a design review of proposed changes to a historic property to ones that would restrict demolition.

Mayor Neil Colburn wanted to know how much the program would cost the city, as well as how much of the city planner’s time the effort would consume.

“I support it — it’s just a word of caution,” Colburn said.

Cort said due to his background and existing contacts with experts at the state level, starting the historic preservation project would not take much of his time.

“This can be done at the beginning with relatively small impact on the budget and my time,” he said.

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