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Housing proposal comes back to Coles Road

A new approach to the development of housing along Coles Road has the city of Langley optimistic about working with a group of developers town residents sent packing in 2003.

In an interview this week, Langley Mayor Neil Colburn and City Planner Pete Friedman said they were approached by NJB Development of Bellingham about four months ago to hear the companies ideas for developing 40 acres in the city’s urban growth area. Last week, the city received a notice of intention to annex from the property’s owner, Gordon Iverson, who Colburn said will likely sell the acreage to NJB if it were annexed to the city of Langley.

NJB is proposing to build 24 homes clustered on the property, leaving almost 75 percent of the land as open space. The company is also proposing to gift 16 acres of land to the city. The proposal is far smaller than one it brought to the city last year. NJB proposed, informally, to build about 80 homes on property along Coles Road, a project which was opposed vehemently and successfully by several hundred Langley residents.

Colburn said the new concept has convinced the city to take another look. “This wasn’t anything we were excited to see come at us,” he said. “But it was hard not to take a look at it.”

Under pressure from Langley-area residents, the city council turned down an NJB request last year for permission to petition to annex 40 acres of property to the city.

NJB’s has already given the city a conceptual drawing of the proposed development. Colburn said he wants to explore the proposal.

“We know people are interested in what happens to that property,” Colburn said. “We’re in a position to protect that and that’s worth a whole lot to us.”

A special portion of the proposed development includes a permanent stand of 12 acres of trees or “greenbelt” that would protect the city from outside noise, including noise from the nearby Holmes Harbor Rod & Gun Club. That greenbelt — which is on the west side of Coles Road, across from the proposed development — would be given to the city if the property was annexed. Colburn said this is an important part of the proposal.

“It’s just such a key noise buffer,” he said.

Also important to the proposed development according to Friedman is a 50-foot forested buffer along Coles Road and between the proposed homes, and at least 150 feet between the neighbors along the south property line. A buffer between 300 and 500 feet is planned for the north side of the property, which is adjacent to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

A non-motorized pedestrian path would ensure that the development would not be isolated from downtown Langley.

Colburn said the city is committed to maintaining the city’s small-town feel, but acknowledges their responsibility to accommodate future growth. Island County’s comprehensive plan calls for Langley to absorb a good deal of the population growth on South Whidbey in the coming years, in keeping with the state’s Growth Management Act.

“We’re very concerned what happens with that property,” he said. “For the city this is a really good thing.”

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