Controversial Edgecliff project makes a comeback in Langley
March 19, 2010 · Updated 4:33 PM
A controversial development of 20 houses in Langley’s Edgecliff neighborhood is back on track after nearly a four-year delay.
Developers of Langley Passage have supplied environmental studies and other documents requested by the city and two local environmental groups, said Larry Cort, city planning director.
“It’s all been completed, and we’re moving ahead,” Cort said Thursday.
The city’s Planning Advisory Board will begin public hearings on the plan next week. The first hearing will be 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 24, at Langley United Methodist Church, Third Street and Anthes Avenue.
Cort said testimony on the development’s preliminary plat will be considered at the first hearing, then wrapped up at an April 14 hearing, followed by consideration of environmental appeals against the project.
From there, the PAB will make a recommendation to the city council, which will decide the fate of the project, Cort said.
The development, first proposed in 2006 by Whidbey Neighborhood Partners, would be built on 8.5 acres between Edgecliff Drive and Sandy Point Road.
Managing partner for the project is Gary Roth, owner of the Roth Co. of Freeland, which specializes in building custom homes.
Roth has built several green-style houses on the South End, including the new cottages at Sixth Street and Camano Avenue in Langley.
Roth’s partner in the Edgecliff project is a South End resident who prefers to remain in the background, Roth said.
Roth said the plan is for 20 “affordable” one- and two-story houses built along a private road.
The houses would be energy efficient using “green construction,” and 48 percent of the development would be preserved as open space, including a wetland and buffers, he said.
Roth said rain gardens would be constructed throughout the development to handle stormwater runoff, a major concern of opponents of the project.
“We’ll actually be enhancing the property,” Roth said Thursday. “It’s a positive thing we’ll be doing there.”
Most of the houses would be three-bedroom, and in the $300,000 to $500,000 price range, Roth said. Existing trees would be retained wherever possible, including two large cedars in the roadway that would be bypassed by roundabouts, he said.
Eight of the houses would be built on one side of the road, eight on the other side and four at the end of the development that would feature a view across Saratoga Passage to Camano Island, Roth said.
He said target buyers for the houses would be recent retirees.
The project has drawn steady opposition from two local action groups concerned about its environmental effects, especially drainage issues involving a potentially overloaded outfall, the wetland at the north end of the property, the stability of the bluff and the water table.
Appeals were filed by the eco-watchdog group Whidbey Environmental Action Network (WEAN) and the Langley Critical Areas Alliance (LCAA), an organization made up of Edgecliff neighbors and other Langley residents.
“We’ll make our arguments,” Steve Erickson of Langley, a WEAN founder, said Thursday of the upcoming hearings.
He said the environmental studies submitted by developers “haven’t been all that credible.”
“They’ve avoided addressing the real issues,” Erickson said. “They’re going to change the hydrology and destabilize the bluff.”
Gail Fleming of Langley, a member of LCAA, said Friday that her group remains opposed to the project.
She said the group’s own engineering studies refute many of the conclusions drawn by the developers.
“This development will make a bad situation worse,” Fleming said. “It’s a dense, cookie-cutter subdivision above a damaged wetland and unstable bluff.
“The developer’s plan to deal with stormwater runoff is so inadequate, it puts the downstream neighbors’ properties at serious risk,” she continued.
“It’s totally environmental,” Fleming added. “Edgecliff has huge problems already.”
Roth said that if the project is approved by the city, construction could begin as early as May, with road, water and sewer systems in by summer and construction of houses begun in the fall.
He said one or two model homes would be built first, “then we’d see how the sales go.”
Although the proposed development is within an area of the city included in a current moratorium on subdivisions, its application was filed before the moratorium went into effect in June 2007, and so is exempt from the restriction.
The city plans to lift the moratorium this spring, after new subdivision regulations, themselves controversial, are put into place.
The new rules are designed to guide development to fit with the city’s existing character, 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 Langley’s “global footprint.”
Roth and other island builders are no fans of the proposed new regulations, which the city has been debating for nearly two years and hopes to adopt soon in order to lift the moratorium.
The builders say the result will be to drive up new-housing prices in the city.
Roth said his development “could be one of the last to go through.”
“It could be the end of development in Langley,” he said. “Development cost are so expensive, I don’t see how it can work.”
Details of the Langley Passage proposal are posted on the city’s Web site at www.langleywa.org.