Langley sewer nays may have it

Langley's push for more sewers may be over before it really gets going.

This week, opponents of the city's plan to extend sewer service to two areas of town where septic systems take care of wastewater treatment claimed they have enough opposition to quash the initiative. About a year in the works, the city's work on sewer extensions was at least expected to come to a city council vote next week to form a local utility district, but the strength of resistance against it may even nip that action before it happens.

During the council's meeting Wednesday, Debbie Holbert, a member of the city's sewer extension committee, said she and others opposed to the estimated $2.8 million project have signed letters from city residents representing nearly 60 percent of the property value within the proposed ULID. That percentage, a supermajority, is the amount required to kill the ULID and the sewer extension proposal.

As of this week, the city did not have all the letters Holbert claimed, according to Langley Mayor Lloyd Furman. Even so, Holbert told the council that it should call off its vote, which was originally scheduled to take place Wednesday night.

"I hope that 60 percent would not be required for our elected officials to realize we don't want this project," she said.

Sewer extensions proposed by the city are planned to go into neighborhoods on Edgecliff Drive, Decker Avenue, Furman Avenue, First Street, Second Street, Saratoga Road and Third Street. The city started planning the extensions last year when officials received word that the project was eligible for low-interest state financing. A special benefits analysis this spring showed that the project would cost individual homeowners an assessment up to about $13,000, plus about $4,000 in connection and side sewer fees.

During the meeting, Holbert pushed the council to beg off on the scheduled sewer vote. However, council member Neil Colburn said he was reluctant to do that prior to the public hearing on the subject that is also scheduled for Wednesday.

"What you're asking us to do is to take this off the table," he said.

It almost did after about a half-hour of discussion, when Colburn learned that the ULID vote might be separated from the public hearing and scheduled for another date. Hearing this for the first time, Colburn told Mayor Furman that the change was unacceptable because the city pegged the May 8 date for the vote months ago. He said he intended to persuade the council to take the vote at that time, even if city administration schedules it for another date.

Holbert noted that there might be more opposition to the sewer measure. She said that so far, only about 20 percent of the property owners in the proposed ULID definitely want sewers. Another 21 percent have not weighed in with their opinions.

If City Hall does receive opposition letters from the required number of property owners before Wednesday's public hearing, the event might be cancelled.

"If we've got 60 percent, the ULID won't be formed," he said.

Even if this happens, this may not be the end of the discussion. Holbert said that if the city finds a way to make sewer extensions more affordable for Langley residents, it should try again.

"In the long run, this is a sellable project," she said.

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