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Langley bans mega houses

"Future residential development in the city of Langley will be fairly dense and on a small scale, like here on Noblecliff Lane, if the city council approves a new rule that would limit the maximum size of a new house.Matt Johnson / staff photoMega houses are not welcome in Langley.Concerned that one day soon the city's building department could be faced with plans for a house so huge that the structure could dwarf an entire neighborhood, Langley planners drafted a rule last month that will tie house sizes to lot sizes and make it illegal for anyone to build a house larger than 5,000 square feet within the city limits.The rule, which will come before the Langley City Council for a first reading on Wednesday night, is intended to preserve the city's character and scale, said city planner Jack Lynch. With input from both the city's design review board and planning advisory board, Lynch will take the size limits to the council in the form of an amendment to the city's comprehensive plan.The design board began talking about size limits early this year when the city received word that someone planned to build an extremely large home within the city limits. Though a permit application was never submitted for the rumored house, Lynch said it got him and city planning staff thinking. In such prosperous times, Lynch said, someone with enough money would eventually build a huge house in Langley.I just think it's a recognition of the times, Lynch said.The size limitation is unique in Island County. Neither the county nor Oak Harbor or Coupeville have placed a maximum size limit on houses.In Oak Harbor, houses are limited to covering 35 percent of a residential lot. Virtually all lots in the city measure between 7,200 and 10,000 square feet, according to the city's building department.Langley's new proposed amendment does not simply limit houses to 5,000 square feet. It also includes house size provisions based on lot size. Under the rule, a single-family home could cover no more than 40 percent of lots measuring 5,000 square feet or less. For larger lots, a home may cover 25 percent of the next 10,000 square feet, or 10 percent of a lot larger than 15,000 square feet. Under those provisions, a small-lot home would be limited to under 2,000 square feet, while large-lot homes could exceed 4,500 square feet.At present there are no houses measuring larger than 5,000 square feet in the city, Lynch said.Also expected to be added to the comprehensive plan will be language limiting duplexes to less than 5,000 square feet, and a building envelope formula designed to guarantee clear sight lines between houses.If approved, the size limits will not be unique in the nation or even Washington. Lynch said such limits are common in communities on the East Coast. Mercer Island also limits house sizes. "

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