Langley considers suing over permitting issues

"A perceived lack of permit enforcement against a property owner living near near Langley had the city's elected officials pondering a lawsuit against Island County last week.During a recent public discussion with a couple living next to the Langley Road bed and breakfast Ashingdon Manor, city officials said they believe county planning officials are not looking out for Langley's interests. The county, city, and Ashingdon Manor's owners, Chuck and Jennifer Johnson, have been haggling over unpermitted work at the bed and breakfast since the couple installed a large pond more than a year ago. Though the bed and breakfast is technically in the county's planning jurisdiction, Langley has some sign-off authority on what happens there because the property is inside the city's urban growth area (UGA). The city and the county signed an interlocal agreement two years ago that requires planners to subject all planning matters in the UGA to Langley's planning rules as well the county's.At the July 18 regular city council meeting, Langley Road residents David and Christine Schnell got the city council thinking about the interlocal agreement when they said they thought the Johnsons might try to build cabins on 10 of the 14 acres they own. City planner Jack Lynch, who was also at the meeting, said the city is still negotiating with the Johnsons over several permitting issues, including yet-unapproved permits for their pond and several small outbuildings they have built around their six-room bed and breakfast.Lynch said he believes Island County has been too lax in requiring permits for this work. Though he said last week that two recent meetings he had with the Johnsons made him feel reasonably assured they will do no more work without obtaining permits, he said Island County has yet to make certain work already completed fits both Langley's and the county's planning regulations.We certainly would want to see the county more diligently pursue these people, he said.At the council meeting, council member Neil Colburn suggested that Langley take Island County go court to force it to better administer laws inside the city's UGA. Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman agreed with Colburn's reasoning.Neil hit on the only way we can enforce it and that is to sue, he said.Lynch said he hopes the city can work out its disagreements with the Johnsons without taking the county to court. He said the couple is interested in annexing their property to the city and becoming designated as a residential zone. For that to happen, three other property owners on Langley Road - Ted Noble and Dan and Brenda Mock - would also have to allow their property to be annexed.Lynch said the Johnsons should receive an after-the-fact permit for their pond once they sign an annexation-development agreement with the city. That agreement is on hold until the Johnsons give the city a plot map of the their property.The Johnson's were not at the July 18 meeting. Last Thursday, Chuck Johnson said he has made some mistakes while landscaping and remodeling. Having worked as a contractor in two other states, Johnson said he did not think projects such as his pond - which turned out to be larger than he calculated - building a small shed, and landscaping his back yard would require permits. Disagreements with neighbors led to complaints and a number of county inspections, Johnson said. One neighbor who Johnson said regularly called the county planning department about the work at the bed and breakfast has since moved away. The Johnsons purchased his property, which is next to the bed and breakfast.Why the couple's property is under such scrutiny is a mystery to Johnson. He said he and his wife are simply trying to make their property more attractive.We wanted it to be beautiful for the community, he said.Annexing to Langley, Johnson said, would probably allow him to do more with his property. He said he would like to build concentrated senior housing on the acreage behind the bed and breakfast. This is a project city regulations would allow, providing the land had city water and sewer service.My feelings are the city is going to be easy to deal with as far as the development of this property, he said. Johnson said Island County planning officials have, for the most part, dealt with him fairly. He said they could have come down hard on his violations and forbidden him from any development work for the next six years.Both of the Johnsons say the struggle over their property is tiring. They said they are not certain if they will continue to live where they do.This week, Langley took permit enforcement action against the Johnsons over a Cascade Avenue house they own. The city's building department issued a stop work order at the house after the couple started remodeling work without a permit. "

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