Noble Creek purchase by Langley hits a county wall

Island County put the brakes on a plan to help Langley pay for an eight-acre conservation easement this week.

The Board of Commissioners was scheduled Monday to vote on a contract that would have provided the city with $175,000 in Conservation Futures funding for the Noble Creek project.

It was the last step in the funding process as the Conservation Futures allocations were approved last year. But instead of approving the contract, the board tabled the issue until June.

District 1 Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said details had changed from the original funding proposal and expressed concern about the property’s value. To be safe, she asked to hold off making a decision until those questions could be answered.

“I would feel more confident if we had an appraisal review,” Price Johnson said. “I just want to double check.”

Board Chairwoman Kelly Emerson was out of state and Commissioner Jill Johnson voiced no objection to postponing the decision until more information is learned.

“I think it would best … so everyone is confident when we make the decision,” Johnson said.

Last year, city officials sought $600,000 in Conservation Futures funding to purchase 11.4 acres of undeveloped property along Noble Creek, east of Camano Avenue. The idea was to preserve the area as open space, create trail connectivity and provide public access to the waterfront.

Program funding requests are reviewed by two advisory groups before being forwarded to the commissioners for final approval. One of the committees, the technical advisory group, recommended Langley instead pursue a $175,000 conservation easement on eight of the 11 acres.

The remaining property would remain open for development, allowing up to 20 new homes, according to Langley officials.

The board did discuss holding the contract until Langley has the property appraised but, in the end, the decision was only to discuss the issue again at a future weekly work session.

Jeff Arango, planning director for Langley, said the delay is somewhat frustrating as conditions for an appraisal were hammered out last year during the funding review process.

An appraisal would be done but after the contract was signed. Half of the $7,000 price tag would be paid for by the county and the other half by the property owner.

The project is on a shoestring budget and the city had not planned to cover the cost out of pocket, he said.

“If they are telling us we have to have that done before they approve the contract, we’ll have to rethink that,” Arango said.

He doubted, however, that the issue would be much of an obstacle and is hopeful the confusion can be worked out by the time the board hears the issue again.

“I’m pretty confident we’ll get it worked out one way or another,” Arango said.

Once the issue is hammered out and the contract approved, the city is expected to move quickly to purchase the easement, he said.


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