First Street neighbors differ over Francisco's development proposal

This unmanaged bluff in Langley, the site of a proposed six-story, commercial/residential building, would be built into for the foundation.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
This unmanaged bluff in Langley, the site of a proposed six-story, commercial/residential building, would be built into for the foundation.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Grumbling over a proposed six-story, 19,000-square-foot development has Langley buzzing.

When Richard Francisco, the owner of the First Street property that includes Village Pizzeria, presented the plan to the city council and Langley Planning Advisory Board earlier this month, some 50 people packed council chambers. Lots of questions were raised about the process, the need and the cost of building a parking garage for the 14 residences, two restaurants, and several more office spaces and retail fronts.

Such a major change riled up plenty of people in town.

Losing the view of Saratoga Passage and the Cascades was a major concern for Lorie McNeill. At a later Langley City Council meeting May 19, she told the council they had to consider how a higher building would affect both residents and businesses.

“For me, that third story has a negative impact on my second story,” she said.

“Is three stories appropriate, not just for me, but for the town?” she later asked.

Langley building code currently limits the height of new construction. Francisco said that by building three stories into the bluff and out of sight from First Street, then splitting them at street level with an open courtyard and elevator to Seawall Park would be a way for the city to maintain some of the sweeping view. Otherwise, a two-story building would span the property, essentially removing the scenic sights people currently take in while strolling down the sidewalks.

“We looked at all options,” Francisco said in an interview with The Record earlier this month. Ben Watanabe / The Record | The Village Pizzeria would be torn down under Richard Francisco’s proposal for a six-story building that stretches from Seawall Park up past First Street. From the street level, it would rise either three or two stories.

Not everyone, however, is questioning Francisco’s proposal. A large new building would be good news, said Tracey Fleisher, owner of Sassy Siren. Located across the street from the shop, it might attract more people who would live, work and/or visit Langley and that means more customers for her clothing boutique.

“I didn’t build this place for the view,” she said. “Retailers should not be concerned about that [view obstructions].”

While several people have voiced their concerns about Francisco’s proposal, Langley Chamber of Commerce Director Marc Esterly said he wanted to see how the project unfurled.

“I think there are some unanswered questions, let alone the major costs to [do] it, that’ll take a while to sort through,” Esterly said.

“If it keeps within the context of the downtown, that’s what matters,” he added.

The planning board is reviewing the proposal to see if it would benefit the city, and Director of Community Planning Jeff Arango said a decision would be made on the height allowance in three to six months.

Public input will be part of the permit process because the height variance would have to be approved by the city. Planning Advisory Board, Design Review Board and Langley City Council meetings are all options for people to further express their opinions about the possible project.

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