Hearing coming for Langley’s Highlands development

People interested in the largest development in Langley history can get a closer look at the Highlands project next week.

A public hearing before the Planning Advisory Board is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 14 in council chambers at City Hall.

Last week, the developers — The Highlands at Langley, Inc. — gave a preliminary review of the project to the Planning Advisory Board. The builders were represented by Rick Almberg, president of RDA & Associates.

The subdivision is the largest development in Langley’s history, and would be built directly above the city’s wellhead.

City planner Alice Schisel said the Highlands would include 53 homes on a 14.57-acre lot on Anderson Road.

Twenty-eight single-family lots and three clustered home groups with common courtyards are planned.

Once the project is finished, it will consist of a variety of housing types, ranging from small cottages and townhouses to single-family homes, Schisel said.

If approved by the city, the project must be finished in two years, but some parts may be completed as early as next year.

Local architect Ross Chapin said that if permits come through as expected, the developer will begin with road and utility work this summer and start building houses this fall.

Chapin said that the subdivision might be a trendsetter and could turn into a model project. There will be a diversity of homes — some may be custom built — and the project has been designed to blend with Langley’s overall look.

Chapin said many of the old trees on the property can be preserved under the design. Approximately 70 percent of existing mature trees will be saved, Schisel added.

A new park, trails and sidewalks are part of the new subdivision. A public trail system is planned, in addition to private open space areas and walkways.

The Highlands will be constructed using the city’s new low-impact development strategies. Low-impact projects are developments that treat rain runoff in non-traditional ways. Schisel said the Highlands will be the model project for the $75,000 low-impact development project that was recently announced by the Whidbey Island Conservation District. The money will be used by the city for direct technical assistance on low-impact development planning and design services.

The location of the development, directly above Langley’s wellhead, requires special attention, said Hal Seligson of the Planning Advisory Board.

“In the absence of a formal wellhead protection plan for Langley, we need to see what measures will be taken to protect Langley’s water supply during site work and building at the Highlands,” Seligson said.

Chapin said the developer will use safe strategies for storm-water management.

“The stormwater system is being engineered to recharge rainfall into the soil and aquifer,” Chapin said.

Homeowners in the Highlands will also be required to attend an educational workshop by the Whidbey Island Conservation Group about the science and responsibilities of living in a well recharge area, he said.

Sewer lines for the Highlands will connect with the city’s main system through the Northview subdivision, Chapin said.

Some citizens have expressed concerns about traffic on Anderson Road from the roughly 100 additional vehicle trips coming from residents of the new development.

The developer has provided city officials with a traffic report prepared by Gibson Traffic Consultants. It analyzes the traffic impacts on nearby intersections and streets both with and without the Highlands project. Chapin said the report concluded that the affected areas currently have a level of service rating of A, and roads will remain at this highest rating after the completion of the project.

“While the engineering shows that the impacts are negligible, the city is requesting, and the applicant has offered to build, a road connecting upper Al Anderson Road and Langley Road. Details for this connector road are currently being worked out,” Chapin explained.

In the long run, some say the development could have a positive economic effect on Langley due to it’s size.

Seligson said proposed home businesses occupancies are a worthy experiment in the new neighborhood.

“I don’t know where the home occupation zoning changes are with the city council at this time,” Seligson said. “Although the full Planning Advisory Board recommended some months ago that home occupation structures in residential neighborhoods should have a minimum of 51 percent residential use, the Planning Advisory Board subcommittee that first reviewed this topic recommended allowing up to 100 percent non-intrusive business-use in newly developed neighborhoods,” he said.

If new residents could take advantage of business opportunities from home, it could add considerably to Langley’s economy and create jobs in town.

Home occupancies are currently under discussion by the city council.

The state Environmental Policy Act checklist and application for the Highlands project were submitted on March 20. The complete file of the proposal, including the environmental determination on the proposal, is available for review at City Hall.

The city has determined that it will not have a probable significant adverse impact on the environment, Schisel said. That means an environmental impact statement is not required. That decision was made after reviewing the completed environmental checklist and other information, she said.

Anyone wishing to comment on the proposal can submit comments or testify at the public hearing. Written comments must be submitted by June 14 to Alice Schisel, city planning official, PO Box 366, Langley, Wa 98260.

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