An amendment to Langley municipal code may be the next step toward the building of a proposed 7,000-square foot wellness center off Fairgrounds Road.
At a Nov. 7 meeting, Damon Arndt of Next Generation Design &Build successfully requested the city council alter a section of Langley Municipal Code that requires automatic fire sprinklers for buildings larger than 3,000 square feet or greater than two stories. The council directed city staff to modify language in the code, which was originally established in 1989, to allow for exceptions. Further research is necessary in order to prevent the amendment from having unintended consequences for future development, according to city documents.
The sprinkler system would have cost between $65,000 and $80,000 and made the project unfeasible, Arndt said. He and his wife Shannon, owner of Lone Lake Physical Therapy in Langley, hope the facility they’ve dubbed the “Wellness Centre” will eventually become a one-stop shop for everything from massage therapy to psychiatry to fulfill financial, emotional and spiritual wellness desires.
“We’re sinking a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it, but we’re hoping it turns into an asset for the community,” Arndt said.
A fire hydrant, smoke detectors monitored 24/7, multiple emergency exits and other safety precautions would be included in building plans to provide adequate fire protection, Arndt said. They are also acknowledging the risk for the building in the event of a fire.
South Whidbey Fire/EMS chief Rusty Palmer said the district encourages fire sprinklers in every building, but whether its required is up to each jurisdiction. He also said that depending on how the building is used, if it were an office center for example, it wouldn’t require a sprinkler system until about 12,000 square feet of size.
“I always think it’s a good thing to have sprinklers,” Palmer said.
A building application has not yet been submitted, but Arndt hopes that time will come as early as December. Arndt’s Next Generation Design &Build specializes in custom home construction and remodeling.
The meeting’s outcome was another step in a planning process that began in July 2015, when the council established “wellness retreat” as a permitted use in the city and defined as a “facility intended to provide a broad range of wellness activities or services within a single compound.”
Arndt entered the meeting hoping to gauge the council’s interest in the project. The latter was a success; members of the city council stated they were in favor of the project while Mayor Tim Callison and Planning Director Brigid Reynolds believe it will aid in economic development.
“We [Shannon and I] left feeling supported,” Arndt said. “The takeaway is that they’re [city council members] in support but not going to committ to something until there’s an application.”
“We felt comfortable enough with what we heard to move forward and see where it goes,” he added.
Councilwoman Rene Neff was a proponent of the project at the meeting, though she disclosed that she is personal friends with the Arndts. As an “older” person, Neff said services to be offered at the facility would fulfill people’s needs in the area.
“In that way, it’s in the best interest for the city to have a wellness center in our city,” Neff said.
She added that the construction process would bring jobs and younger people to town. The facility also estimates it will have 100 customers a day, Neff said.
The building’s proposed location is in the woods adjacent to Fairgrounds Road. Arndt hopes it will house a group of businesses operating and collaborating under the same roof, unlike a strip mall where businesses are independent, while also maintaining a rural setting.
“Legally, they would be independent businesses,” Arndt said. “But, functionally, we’re hoping it’s more than that and that it will foster collaboration.”
A conference room for rent or community use could also be included. Further development, depending on the success of the center, could also lead to lodging, he said, where people could come stay for a sustained period of time to best serve their needs.
“We’re starting here and seeing where it all goes,” Arndt said. “If it becomes successful and we want to expand, it’s something we’re staying open to.”
There are still some unknowns moving forward, said Reynolds, easement rights chief among them.
“If there were any changes that the city might like to see to improve pedestrian safety, for example, we’d have to work it out with property owners, as opposed to if it were a dedicated right-of-way,” Reynolds said.
There is also no sidewalk and no storm drainage facility.
“It’s still early,” Reynolds said.