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A marina land swap

Paul Schell and Tony Puma have a new vision for the Langley Small Boat Harbor, and it does not include the condemned Langley Marina building. But it does ask for a small sacrifice of city-owned property in exchange for granting public beach access.

In an interview Thursday, Schell, who is Langley resident, said he and business partner Tony Puma could move forward with plans to purchase the Langley Marina property if they can negotiate a price from current owners Linda Moore and Ginger Miller.

Pending an agreeable price, Schell was excited this week over his rough plans to develop the property, which will happen whether or not plans to develop the Small Boat Harbor move forward with the Port District of South Whidbey and the city of Langley.

“We would still go ahead, assuming we could get a decent price,” Schell said.

At the Langley City Council meeting Wednesday, the council authorized Langley’s Boat Harbor Project coordinator, Jack Lynch, to respond to a letter from Schell and Puma requesting the city’s comments on preliminary plans for the Langley Marina property.

Schell and Puma’s plans include the demolition of the Langley Marina building and the construction of two smaller buildings set back from the beach. One building would be developed as part of the Boatyard Inn, and the other would be developed as a bait shop, marine hardware store and takeout deli below and a private residence above.

“It will be much more modest than what is there now,” Schell said.

A public walkway planned between the two providing public access to the beach is a noteworthy aspect of the project. Schell plans to remove an existing dock and pilings to help with the development of the Small Boat Harbor and to open up a piece of beach.

“I think it’s important for all of South Whidbey,” he said. “People on the island should have access to the water and that’s not easy on South Whidbey.”

On Thursday, Mayor Neil Colburn said he is pleased with the project’s progress. He said the city’s letter to Schell and Puma should not be considered as an approval of their project, but as an agreement to cooperate and move forward in recreating the historic roots of the wharf district.

“I’m optimistic that it hasn’t fallen apart,” Colburn said. “I’m happy that we’ve essentially agreed to cooperate.”

Also in their preliminary plans, Schell and Puma proposes a trade of several properties around the Langley Marina property, including tidelands and a portion of the property the defunct building sits over. The trade is necessary to provide setback room for the planned new buildings and parking lots.

“We’ve learned that it’s very expensive to build over water,” Schell said.

Lynch said the city would generally favor the proposed exchange of properties subject to several conditions. The conditions of an agreement to exchange property would include an appraisal of the properties, to be paid for by Schell and Puma. This would be necessary to prove that the city is receiving property with value at least comparable to the value it would trade. Any difference in value would have to paid to the city by Schell and Puma.

Other conditions to be met would be providing for a roadway that meets city engineering standards and provides safe pedestrian access. There would also be provisions for access between Wharf Street and proposed public areas.

Lynch said Friday that in the property exchange being proposed to the city, Langley would gain an additional 1,000 square feet. He said in the rough plans, Schell and Puma have kept the scale of the project with what is already in the area.

“It’s substantially less development than is there,” he said. “Right now the key is, is the sale going to go through or not?”

Lynch also said getting rid of the old dock and Langley Marina building would be a positive move toward the development of the harbor.

Schell and Puma have also indicated they would gift the tidelands in front of the Boatyard Inn to the Port District of South Whidbey to facilitate expanded harbor facilities.

According to Lynch, all development will be subject to complete development applications, written proposals and public review. Final decisions would also have to be made by the city and other permitting agencies before development could begin.

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