Langley rezones to grow housing options

Langley City Council members voted unanimously to approve zoning map changes after hearing mixed public comment at a meeting Monday night.

The amendment changes will allow for multi-family units to be built on the more than 40 lots included on the map. Concerns about the action focused on one property, owned by Habitat for Humanity of Island County, that is separated from the rest of the rezoned areas.

“It seems like special treatment,” resident Emmy Atwood told council members.

She and others expressed concern over the process through which the proposed changes came about. Brigid Reynolds, city director of community planning, said that it was initiated as a “non-project” action to be consistent with the city’s recently passed housing ordinances and comprehensive plan. The city Planning Advisory Board proposed the changes to the council in March.

Atwood and resident Bob Gunn said at the meeting that it seemed as though the changes were made to specifically accommodate Habitat for Humanity. She said it seemed like the nonprofit’s property, located on Third Street, was getting swept into “unrelated” re-zones.

The other selections of re-zoned parcels are located across DeBruyn Avenue up to First Street.

Others present at the meeting spoke in support of the changes because they will allow Habitat to build affordable multi-family units in the city. The organization has provided a conceptual design for two-story attached townhouses, however no official application has been submitted.

At the meeting, Gunn said he thought it struck him as “suspicious” that the city said the action wasn’t project driven; there was city email correspondence with Island County Habitat’s Chief Operating Officer Orin Kolaitis in which he asked for the re-zone, Gunn said.

Reynolds said the change can be justified under city code because it’s consistent with city goals to encourage infill and reduce barriers for construction of housing. It’s also consistent with the surrounding area, she said, which includes a number of uses outside single-family homes.

Additionally, she said it met standards for a demonstrated public benefit because of recent city and county findings related to the significant lack of affordable housing in the area.

Councilwoman Dominique Emerson said she felt satisfied by the justification for the changes, regardless of who the landowner is.

“The rest is just gravy,” she said.