Langley plans to continue building moratorium

The city of Langley will likely continue its moratorium on building in its residential zones, city officials said earlier this week.

The new, extended version of the moratorium could allow exemptions, however. And the variation would be welcomed by a Langley couple who wants to subdivide a large Third Street lot and has been negotiating with the city in recent months.

It’s been nearly one year since the council enacted a moratorium that prevents people from subdividing properties to build new homes in Langley.

On June 6, 2007, the city council unanimously approved an emergency moratorium to bar acceptance of applications to divide land for residential use. It was set for one year.

In early June, city officials have to decide if they want to continue the building ban or lift the moratorium.

On Wednesday night, the three council members in attendance at the regular city council meeting — Bob Waterman, Rene Neff and Robert Gilman — said they were interested in extending for six months.

“That’s the most they can go for,” said Planning Director Larry Cort.

More work must be wrapped up that’s related to the update of the city’s growth plan, he said.

“The sense that we got from the council and the community is yes, it should stay in place because we aren’t done with all the work from the comp plan,” Cort said.

The city council had voted for the original moratorium in part because they feared new construction in town could conflict with changes made in Langley’s long-range growth plan.

The city has not yet completed code or zoning changes resulting from the rewrite, however. Cort said the city expects to finish that work in December.

Cort said a moratorium that stretches for 18 months is not unusual.

“There have been a substantial number statewide that have gone longer,” he said, adding that Langley has to prove that the moratorium is necessary.

“Langley has to continue to work in good faith to get it resolved,” Cort said. “We can’t just slap one on and say, ‘That’s it.’”

Langley Mayor Paul Samuelson, who voted for the moratorium last year when he was still a councilman, said city staff will work out the details of the extension and possibly tweak the ordinance slightly before it is presented to the council.

That could include exempting some properties from the building ban or allowing exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

“It looks to me like we’re extending the moratorium, but in what way, we’re not sure,” Samuelson said.

Meanwhile, a Langley couple is negotiating to get an exemption.

Dave and Cathy Schmidt sent a letter to the city last month to make their case.

The couple owns a 1.14 acre parcel on Third Street and they want to subdivide their property into three parcels, with their home taking one of the lots.

Cort has advised the city council to reject the exemption request.

A public hearing, followed by a vote of the city council, is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. June 4 at city hall.

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