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Waterfront talks advance in Langley

LANGLEY — Talks between the city and waterfront property owners on both First Street and Wharf Street are off to a good, yet slow, start.

Officials from the city of Langley hosted the first round of closed-door meetings and the participants said they were happy with the outcome. The city met with property owners to sort out development issues and to start work on a plan for new rules that will guide future development.

The private sessions came after months of controversy surrounding waterfront development in Langley. Some property owners have complained that development rules along the shoreline are too restrictive. Residents, however, are worried that development will be allowed that is out of scale and detracts from Langley’s charm.

The city wants to preserve Seawall Park north of First Street and also wants to bring all of its planning rules into sync with each other.

Wharf Street owners met with city officials on May 22; First Street owners gathered at city hall on Thursday.

Property owner Christina Drake said the talks went well.

Drake owns Drake’s Landing near the marina with her sister and is considering selling the property to developer Brian Stowell for a mixed-use building. However, under current regulations their options are limited.

“I had hoped for a bit more concrete and definitive direction, but it was the first meeting,” she said. “It was the meet-and-greet meeting. It’s all part of the big picture process.”

Ron Kasprisin, a professor of architecture and planning at the University of Washington, led the meeting.

“Larry Cort (Langley’s planning director) did a great job of recording the ideas and also asking thoughtful questions regarding what our vision for the waterfront was,” Drake said.

“It started something creative and design-based to be worked on over the next few months,” she said.

Even though no major advances were made, Drake said it opened her eyes to the problems faced by other property owners.

“We participated in a group discussion of what we all would like to see happen on the waterfront via throwing out ideas of what is important, such as sustainability, activity, connecting the waterfront to First Street, providing housing and commercial uses, plus accommodating the boating traffic,” she said.

Then the group toured the area.

“We all took a walk to the waterfront and looked at all the properties involved and it was very enlightening to see the properties from that perspective,” Drake said.

More than 10 people attended the meeting. The next meeting is set for early June.

On Thursday, city officials and owners tackled First Street issues. All property owners except one showed up.

On First Street, owners want to be able to stabilize, renovate and potentially increase the size of their properties, while the city wants to make sure that Seawall Park remains a public park.

“We all want to make sure we can stabilize the bluff,” said Mayor Paul Samuelson.

“The property owners’ concerns are that their property appreciates [in value],” he said. “We all want the same, as long as the economics work.”

Cort said the city is planning a set of four meetings for each section of the waterfront and a final design solution should be ready by fall.

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