Langley may extend subdivision moratorium

The city of Langley will likely extend its moratorium against new subdivisions before the current one expires next month.

The move, if approved by the city council, would mark the third time the ban prohibiting new subdivisions has been extended since it was first adopted in 2007.

The reason for extending the moratorium, however, hasn’t changed since the first extension was adopted in June 2008: City officials still haven’t wrapped up work on Langley’s new development regulations.

Larry Cort, the city’s planning director, said wholesale changes to policies in the city’s comprehensive plan — the document that will guide growth in the city over the next two decades — means more work must be done on the building regulations that must mesh with the comp plan.

“Because it was such a comprehensive shift of our planning philosophy at the comp plan level, that turned out to be a comprehensive shift at the development regulations level,” Cort said.

One of the biggest pieces has been a new ordinance that will guide the creation of subdivisions, Cort said.

He said the city has been diligently working on wrapping up the new development regulations since the ban was extended in December 2008.

“The Planning Advisory Board has been absolute stars in their approach to this,” he said.

“It’s an extraordinary amount of work they have taken on, and it has grown,” he added.

The ban against subdividing land was first approved in June 2007 for one year, then extended again in June and December 2008. It prohibits new subdivisions in the city’s RS-7,200 and RS-15,000 zoning districts, the areas of town where medium- and low-density housing development is allowed.

City officials say the moratorium is necessary so developers won’t “flood the city” with applications for new projects before the new regulations are finished.

“We are working outside the box on this set of regulations,” Cort added. “They are home grown and crafted to fit Langley and that’s why it’s taken so long.”

The new regulations will include concepts new to Langley. Subdivisions with more than five homes, for example, will need to set aside 5 percent of the land to be developed for community gardens or parks. The roofs of new homes will face south for “solar access.” And property owners who want to divide their land will have to create long-term management plans to protect environmentally critical areas, and start monitoring programs to protect native plants.

When council members last approved extending the moratorium, they lifted the ban against new subdivisions in two neighborhoods, near St. Hubert Catholic Church and west of Langley Middle School, where properties are largely built out.

Before the moratorium is lifted, the city must complete its environmental review of the impact of the new development regulations, hold a hearing before the Planning Advisory Board, and send the new rules to the city council for a final review and vote.

Still, Cort said it was likely the next extension would be the last.

“I would put the likelihood of it wrapping up at about 90 percent,” he said.

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