UPDATE | Hearing postposed after consultant collapses

LANGLEY — A public hearing on the controversial Langley Passage housing project was abruptly adjourned Wednesday evening after a consultant collapsed moments after beginning his presentation.

Quin Clements had just started a discussion of drainage issues for the proposed 20-lot project and was fielding questions from the city’s Planning Advisory Board when he suddenly fell to the floor of Fellowship Hall in Langley United Methodist Church.

It was not immediately apparent why Clements collapsed.

The dramatic moment came 90 minutes into the hearing, the third day of testimony for the single-family housing project in the Edgecliff neighborhood.

Clements, an engineer with Davido Consulting Group, had just started a slide show and was taking a pause in his presentation to answer questions from PAB members. He told board members he was having trouble understanding their questions, and then dropped the microphone.

After picking up the microphone and dropping it again, Clements began to stand up and then fell over.

The audience of nearly 30 sat surprised for a half moment, then one woman jumped to her feet and asked “Is there a doctor in the house? Is there a doctor in the house?” as other people in the crowd rushed to Clements’ side.

PAB Member Julie Buktenica pulled out a cell phone and dialed 911 as Clements remained on the floor, motionless.

People nearby said later he hit his head on a table as he collapsed.

Emergency crews arrived just after 5:30 p.m.

PAB Chairman Jim Sundberg announced the meeting would be adjourned and the hearing would continue at the board’s first meeting in May.

Paramedics said Clements was alert and responsive, and he asked not to be taken to the hospital. He said later that he was training for his first marathon and it had taken a toll.

“I think my tank was empty,” he said Friday.

The unexpected early end to the hearing overshadowed the efforts of city staff to explain why they are asking the city council to approve the controversial project.

At the last hearing, on April 14, some residents opposed to the project said it was not in the public interest, and one Langley resident asked the PAB to ignore the advice of city planners and ask the city council to reject the proposal.

In rebuttal testimony Wednesday, Larry Cort, the city’s planning director, said some people were confused about the approval process for the draft layout of the subdivision.

Cort began with a reminder that the review was centered on the preliminary plat.

“In hearing the public testimony, there seemed to be some confusion as to exactly where we are in the subdivision review,” he said.

Noting that some critics had pointed out a lack of detail in the plat proposal, Cort said state law says preliminary plats can simply be “a neat and approximate drawing of a proposed subdivision showing the general layout of streets and alleys, lots and blocks and other elements.”

The development, on 8.5 acres between Edgecliff Drive and Sandy Point Road, is planned by Whidbey Neighborhood Partners. The current plan is for 20 one- and two-story houses built on a private road that connects to Sandy Point Road.

Changes to the preliminary plat are expected before a final layout is approved by the city.

It’s a two-step approval process, Cort explained, and the actual lots in the subdivision will be finalized later.

He said lots are created only in the final plat document that is recorded with the Island County Auditor’s Office.

Cort also said the project would have to clear many hurdles if it is approved, including the regulations on subdivisions and development in Langley’s municipal code.

“Even if it’s not in the conditions of approval, if it’s in the municipal code, they apply. I think there was some confusion about this,” he said.

Likewise, the developer would also have to abide by rules protecting wetlands on the property, he said.

“Every section of the wetland ordinance or critical areas ordinance applies to this application,” he said.

City Engineer Ryan Goodman said there would be restrictions to handle surface-water runoff from the property, a prime concern of neighbors who are worried that runoff from the property will make the bluff along Edgecliff even more unstable.

Goodman said the amount of pavement and other hard surfaces that prevent stormwater from soaking into the earth had been reduced, and he noted other low-impact development techniques would be used to cut down on runoff.

“There will be 21 rain gardens built at buildout to handle every expected rainfall event,” he said.

Representatives for Whidbey Neighborhood Partners, including Gary Roth, managing partner for the development, are expected to testify when the hearing resumes on May 12.

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