Letter: Langley ordinance changes encourage affordable housing without sewer

Regarding the Infrastructure Bond proposed for Langley, I am writing to inform residents of recent changes in city ordinances that have provided numerous opportunities for affordable housing without extending sewers to the sensitive Edgecliff bluff area.

These new ordinances include allowing two tiny houses or two accessory dwelling units [ADUs] on every single-family lot served by sewer in Langley; one tiny house or ADU on every single-family lot served by septic; less restrictive hookup fees, and the ability to develop tiny house communities of 12 units per acre.

Regarding density in East Langley, the zoning on the south side of Edgecliff from Camano to Furman is 7200. Land cannot be subdivided in Langley without sewer, and for many years the zoning map showed this area as 7200WS (with sewer). The “WS” is now gone but the result is the same: With the advent of sewer all of that land can be subdivided into 7200 sq.ft. lots. To call that fact “fake news” is not only inaccurate but unhelpful. There are absolutely no guarantees that subdividing that land will result in affordable housing for workforce residents who will then become a boon to our economic development.

Any increase in density called for by the GMA will be addressed by the city’s recent ordinances on ADU’s and Tiny Houses. Furthermore, the GMA’s requirement for cities to build responsibly in order to protect the environment and critical areas is not being addressed with this proposed bond. If the approximately 20 acres of forested land around Noble Creek were developed at 6 units per acre, the deforestation and increase in impervious surface would put the unstable bluff at further risk. Careful planning and responsible bluff protection are absolutely necessary for our city to be a model community for affordability. A major bluff disaster will cost all of us in Langley.

We now have a line item in our budget for affordable housing, although there are no funds allocated to it. The only way to build truly affordable housing in Langley is for the city to take on that responsibility. I wonder if an Economic Development Grant like the $3 million Island County has offered to our city for the purpose of “workforce” housing could be used to fund this line item and actually build affordable housing. Developers cannot be counted on to subsidize affordable housing; it must come from local government.

Staci Mahagan-McGill