Opinion

VIEWPOINT | Schell attack was unfair, inaccurate; respect needed

By RENE NEFF

Langley City Council

I am a City Council member in Langley and I own a business in downtown. As such I feel the need to respond to Fran Johnson who wrote a recent letter to the editor about Paul and Pam Schell’s new building near the Langley Marina.

If Fran Johnson had the time to write this letter it would have been great if she had taken a few moments to speak with City Planner Jeff Arango or Mayor Fred McCarthy to get some facts. Either of them would have gladly helped her understand the following:

The Schells purchased the original building, an old overwater structure in poor condition many years ago. Paul negotiated with the City and the Department of Ecology for the right to build a new structure on that property. As part of that agreement the Schells deeded the tidelands to the City of Langley, which transferred to the Port of South Whidbey when they took ownership of the Marina. This agreement allows the public to have access to the shoreline to walk and picnic on that beach, which is a definite public benefit. In return the Dept. of Ecology allowed Schell to rebuild as long as the building didn’t encroach further than the original wooden bulkhead.

Shell’s original permit was issued in 2008 but it lapsed because he was not ready to build. The last permit took 9 months to issue and included new demands from the City such as assuming the cost of upgrading a water line past his property to the marina and adding 3 feet to the height of his building (because of the new shoreline restrictions).

His new permits were finally issued in 2012 after another review by the Dept. of Ecology who deemed his new building an improvement to the shoreline since it didn’t go out over the beach and block the light on the tidelands. The City’s Design Review Board (an all volunteer board with expertise in various areas who allow public comment on buildings being reviewed) also approved the project. In terms of setbacks, there are no street setbacks required in the Central Business District in Langley, which the Marina area is part of. So, in review, the property went through two reviews by the Department of Ecology, two reviews by two different city planners, two different Design Review Boards and two opportunities for the public to comment. I would call that a pretty rigorous system which had nothing to do with Mr. Schell’s money.

Johnson is certainly welcome to her opinion in regard to the building. But to shame someone when she doesn’t have the facts, didn’t take the time to check the facts and thinks she knows what happened, when in fact she does not is in my mind mean spirited. It is also insulting to cast such negative aspersions on the City and State officials and volunteers who try to do their jobs honestly in accordance with the law.

You may not be a fan of the types of buildings that Paul Schell has built in Langley, you may not like change because you want things to stay the same, you may resent those tourists who come here, stay in Paul Schell’s Inns and literally keep our businesses open. But I would ask you to please check your assumptions before casting judgment on your neighbors.

We all live in this community, and it would be wonderful if we could treat each other with respect.

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