Details still sketchy in Fairgrounds Road deal

LANGLEY Mayor Neil Colburn said details on an agreement that will end the long-running dispute over Fairgrounds Road will be hammered out by the end of next month.

Langley officials announced an end to the fight over an easement across the county fairgrounds at the council’s meeting Wednesday night. The proposed agreement would mean the end of an extended feud over the strip of land that’s needed to build a quarter-mile stretch of city street between Al Anderson Road and Langley Road.

Colburn said he was "cautiously confident" that an agreement to end the skirmish over Fairgrounds Road would hold up, citing Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton’s work in quelling the quarrel.

"I may not like how Mike Shelton does everything he does, but I believe in his integrity," Colburn said.

“We're moving from litigation to negotiation," Colburn added.

County commissioners, with the blessing of Island County fair officials, have agreed to grant the city of Langley an easement so a city street can be built across the county fairgrounds. City officials say the new road is needed to lessen traffic impacts from the Highlands, the largest housing project in city history.

Construction of the 53-home Highlands was scheduled to begin this week. Fair officials had refused to give the city a route across the public property, citing safety concerns and potential impacts to the fair campgrounds.

Details of the deal were not announced. Instead, specifics of the agreement will be released following a review by city and county lawyers. That may stretch through May, Colburn said.

Langley initially offered the fair association approximately $138,000 in site improvements in exchange for the road easement including changes to the stormwater drainage system, a sewer line extension along Langley Road, and the installation of a dump station for recreational vehicles – in an offer the city tendered in March 2006.

That deal dropped to $72,000 in improvements by June 2006, however.

And after the condemnation lawsuit was filed by the city last October, Langley offered just $12,075 for the roughly half acre of land needed for the Fairgrounds Road project.

City officials released a statement to the press at tonight’s meeting that said all sides were now in agreement on a deal.

"The commissioners are very pleased that this matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. We look forward to working with the city during the construction process to assure minimal impact on fairgrounds events," Commissioner Shelton said in the press release.

Fair board chairman Dan Ollis said the agreement will let the fair board focus on its job of putting on the fair, and he praised the work done by fair volunteers.

"Volunteers are typically very passionate about where they choose to contribute their time and money," Ollis said in the statement. "I am proud of their efforts, and thankful that this issue can be put to rest. Additionally, I commend Mike Shelton and city officials for their efforts to resolve such a difficult situation."

The agreement comes amid a growing cry from Langley residents for prompt action by county officials. Some have said commissioners erred by asking the county fair board for an OK on the easement, and city officials last month rejected commissioners’ call for a public vote on Fairgrounds Road.

Residents on the southern edge of Langley are worried that traffic from the Highlands development will endanger the walking route along Al Anderson Road a popular pathway in pedestrian-friendly Langley – unless the connector road through the fairgrounds is built.

Critics of the stalemate have grown increasingly vocal in recent months, and a “Walk to Save Langley” demonstration had been planned for Saturday. Organizer Craig Cyr said the walk will still be held and he hopes people will attend to learn more about the proposed road.

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