Fairgrounds may get new zoning

LANGLEY - New zoning and associated new uses for the Island County Fairgrounds could be less than three months away.

City Councilman Robert Gilman said during Wednesday’s city council meeting that one of the top four policy priorities for the city is a new “fairgrounds overlay zoning.”

As a part of the settlement over Fairgrounds Road last year, city officials promised the county that they would consider zoning changes that would allow expanded, year-around use of the property. The fairgrounds are currently zoned "public," which prohibits the fair from a number of commercial possibilities ranging from additional activities such as concerts to adding new buildings that could be used for conventions. Fair officials want more freedom in what they can do at the fairgrounds to increase the revenue for the fair.

Gilman, acting in his new role as one of the policy coordinators for the council, said the Planning Advisory Board and Langley's planning staff will work on the zoning change in the upcoming months. The city's planning staff estimates that it will take about three months to complete the task.

Council members wanted to know why the city is crafting an overlay code instead of a brand new zone within the city.

“It shares a lot of the common characteristics and features with our other public places,” explained Larry Cort, the city's planning director. “But it’s absolutely unique in the things that go on there.”

An overlay zone allows the city to outline rules that apply specifically to the fairgrounds property and aren’t replicated anywhere else in the city, Cort said.

“It lets us get very specific while still underlying our public zoning,” he said.

However, the new zoning is very likely not going to give fair officials a blank check for using the publicly-owned property.

Any new uses of the fair have to fit with the character and atmosphere of Langley, Cort said.

Activities that will create a large amount of noise on the property, such as the suggestion for motorbike racing that was made in an early zoning proposal by fair officials, are also out of the question. There are neighbors to consider, Cort said.

Council members agreed.

“No motorcycle racing,” Councilman Jim Recupero said.

“No motorcycles,” echoed Councilwoman Rene Neff.

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