EDITORIAL | No easy solution for Langley tavern

Controversy over Mo’s Pub and Eatery in Langley raised its ugly head again last week, and unfortunately it won’t be the last time.

No, this quarrel will endure as the decision years ago to permit such an activity in a residential area is without a clear solution. How can there be? Neighbors have a legitimate right to peace and quiet, and business owner Maureen Cooke has the equal right to run her tavern — Langley city code says so.

The city council can only make one group happy at the expense of the other, making for a true no-win scenario. It’s a difficult pickle to be in, but not one that’s unique, even on Whidbey Island.

Oak Harbor wrestled with a similar scenario for years. Past zoning decisions paved the way for waterfront condos and a busy city nightclub sitting opposite each other on Bayshore Drive. While most club patrons behaved themselves, public drunkenness, excessive noise at closing time and crime were all common sources of complaints from neighbors. Some residents even claim to have witnessed people urinating in their yards.

City officials spent years dealing with fallout from the incompatible uses, facing public barrages from fed-up residents who bemoaned the situation and screamed for action. At the same time, the council put increasing pressure on the club owners with mitigation measures that some claimed edged dangerously close to harassment.

The club eventually closed after crime led to the state pulling their liquor license, though a new owner is seeking to reopen the club under a new license.

Oak Harbor leaders appear to have temporarily dodged the bullet, and they should count themselves lucky for what else could they do? The answer is very little, and neither can Langley. Ignore the situation entirely and a city may face a lawsuit from angry property owners. Go too far with mitigation strategies and the city could find itself in court with a business owner.

The fact is one person’s rights don’t supersede those of another and only so much can be asked of a business owner who is only doing what a city legally allows.

Cooke said in a news story last week that she’s “sick of Langley” and is ready to call it quits. This is undoubtedly what some have hoped for all along, but they should not kid themselves. Cooke is selling, not closing up shop, which means either she or someone new will remain.

Loud noise from a tavern in a residential area will continue and the ongoing headache is the penance the Langley City Council must bear for permitting incompatible uses.

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