Planning board approves Coles Road housing plan

One hurdle cleared, many more to go.

After months of negotiations and public discussion, Langley’s planning advisory board recently gave the go-ahead on the early blueprint for the new Coles Road development.

Called “The Grove,” the preliminary plan for the 40-acre, 24-lot housing development must now pass muster with the city’s design review board, the city council and city staff.

The design review board will make a decision on the plans at their July 19 meeting. The city council may then approve the preliminary plan in late August.

Construction work should begin early next year, said Jeff Johnson, a partner with Pacific Crest Partners, developers of the new neighborhood. The Grove will be located on Coles Road about a quarter mile past the road’s intersection with Brooks Hill Road.

Before the planning advisory board approved the plan, though, the developers presented a new design based on comments from a June 8 planning advisory board meeting and input from city staff.

The developers also considered the suggestions made by Langley residents and the planning board on Wednesday.

In addition, Donna Keeler, the city’s planning consultant gave recommendations from the city staff, including extension of the public trails on the project site, making several street and traffic modifications, and changing the storm-drainage system.

Design changes already in place include the preservation of a 50-foot tree buffer between Coles Road and the new neighborhood.

“I can’t even imagine seeing a house from Coles Road based on this design,” Johnson said.

More trails were added to link with established trails, and 18 acres of open space will remain for either a community gathering area or public garden.

Also, homes must set back at least 20 feet from the road, and on-street space between driveways will be used for public parking. Homeowners in The Grove will have 13 acres of private open space, as well.

Johnston said the developers also heeded the community’s “strong message” to keep garages from being the face of the community.

“The front of the house will be the dominate feature,” he said.

After hearing about the changes, audience members offered more suggestions.

Some wondered how the developers will handle the steep slopes on three of the lots, and potential problems with houses that are turned to the back of each other.

The varied topography, such as ravines and hills, requires each home to have an individual design based on its location, said Bob Libolt of Pacific Crest Designs.

“We want to create a format were people can design accordingly,” he said.

No home will exceed 3,250 square feet, Johnson said.

Houses were designed with the backs turned to each other to as part of the development’s “cabin in the woods feel,” he said.

The plan also sets aside open space for a community meeting area. In addition, the plan provides area to build additional roads to any possible future communities nearby.

Terry Noel, a Langley resident, said having houses turned from each other or facing the woods provides privacy for the homeowner.

Some residents asked why there will only be one entrance to the new neighborhood.

Johnston said the annexation agreement reached in January requires a single entrance.

The designers stretched out the road running through the community to add more open space in the middle of the development.

Mark Wahl of Langley suggested installing “night sky lighting” to prevent bright lights from setting the sky aglow at night.

Some residents also wanted to know how much the lots will cost, and asked if construction could be timed to avoid impacts to wildlife.

Langley resident Malcolm Ferrier gave the planning board with packets of information about making the development more environmentally sustainable, and raised the issue of noise from the Holmes Harbor Rod and Gun Club.

Johnson said the issues raised will be considered for future design changes.

And the frequently changing lot values make it difficult to estimate the cost of each lot, Johnson said.

Planning board members complimented the designers on their efforts and offered a few suggestions, as well. Those included moving a streetlight, changing the type of sewage system proposed and urging the design review board to find ways to make the isolated development more of a community until other neighborhoods are built around it.

Wednesday’s approval was the latest step in the development of the property.

When the developers originally requested the chance to annex the property into the city, they were denied. Larry Kwarsick, the developer’s land-use consultant, said when the city council rejected the request, a concern was raised that the developers wanted to build on all 116 possible lots.

But rather than going to the county for approval, Kwarsick said the developers presented a new plan which showed they only intended on developing 24 lots.

The city council approved the annexation with several specific requirements in January.

Those requirements include preservation of open space, trail construction, trailhead parking and roadway buffers from Coles Road.

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