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Langley to ask builders for buy-in

LANGLEY — City council members said Monday they would like local developers to evaluate the city’s new rules on subdivisions before the council approves the proposed regulations.

Some on the council said they were concerned that the new rules would drive up the cost of housing projects in Langley.

Councilwoman Rene Neff said she was worried that people could become priced out of housing in Langley if the cost of development increases, or that restrictions would shut down development to the point that no one would want to build in the city.

Langley is on a tight timeline to review and approve expansive new regulations that would guide the subdivision of land in the Village by the Sea. Council members have been pushing to have the rules adopted in time to have the city’s longstanding moratorium against new subdivisions lifted by April 6. Langley first adopted its ban on new neighborhoods in June 2007; it currently covers areas zoned RS-7,200 and RS-15,000, the areas of town where medium- and low-density housing development is allowed. Generally, the ban covers the areas of Al Anderson Avenue, Edgecliff and Saratoga Road.

If the city hopes to lift its moratorium by early April, however, the new subdivision rules must be sent to the state for review by the council’s next meeting on Jan. 19.

Neff suggested that the new subdivision rules — presented to the council in draft form at a Monday workshop by the city’s Planning Advisory Board — be vetted by a small group of developers who have local ties.

“I would like to see that happen before I vote on it, before it goes to the state,” she said.

Overall, council members said they liked what they saw in the draft regulations. The Planning Advisory Board worked for months to craft the new rules, 29 pages of requirements that developers must meet depending on the size of the subdivisions they propose.

“It’s obviously well- thought out,” said Councilman Bob Waterman.

Beyond the quest to create “great new neighborhoods,” the regulations are also based on other lofty goals, according to the draft document, which include “the promotion of socially just opportunities for living, working and recreating” and “the assurance that Langley will do more than its fair share to act responsibly as one village among many.”

The rules are expected to guide development that will be designed to fit with the existing character of Langley, as well as preserve as much natural vegetation as possible, link neighbors and neighborhoods, promote diversity in housing types and the people who live in them, and lessen the community’s “global footprint.”

Jim Sundberg, chairman of the Planning Advisory Board, gave the council an overview of the draft regulations.

“We’re not rewriting the book,” Sundberg said, adding that some of the ideas drew their origin in city documents that date back to the late 1800s. Others, such as rain gardens and clustered mailboxes, were also not new to Langley.

“This is not new ground,” he said.

Sundberg said the draft document included “pointers” and “suggestions,” but some in the audience at the meeting noted the rules were, in fact, mandatory.

Council members questioned whether the rules would make land more expensive to divide, and Neff pointed to the regulations that would require monitoring of on-site vegetation and restoration efforts.

Melanie Shafaat of the Planning Advisory Board said such costs could be built into the homeowners’ dues in new subdivisions.

“But again, that’s a cost,” Neff said.

“Our land does need to be monitored,” Shafaat responded. “Otherwise, it won’t happen.”

The formal review and adoption schedule, as outlined Monday, could lead to the end of the moratorium by late March or early April. Public outreach on the new regulations would begin at the Planning Advisory Board meeting on Jan. 27.

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