Proposed development in Langley draws concern

The housing development is proposed for a location near Coles Road.

A recent community meeting addressing a proposed housing development near Coles Road in Langley drew some skepticism and concern from members of the public, many of whom are neighbors to the area where the project is being suggested.

A consulting group and the architect for the project, Langley resident Ross Chapin, led the teleconferenced meeting Monday night. Preliminary designs for the project were discussed, and members of the public had the opportunity to weigh in.

The 40-acre parcel in question is bisected by Coles Road. It was annexed into the city of Langley in 2005. Development is being proposed for approximately 28 of those acres, located on the east side of the road. In addition, some of the property will be preserved as forested open space.

Chapin presented concept drawings of the development, which are subject to change as the project advances. Seven subregions with a variety of different housing types are currently being proposed, ranging between 115 to 135 units total.

“None of these are ostentatiously large at all,” Chapin said of the homes. “They might range up to a couple thousand square feet. They’re everything from tiny houses to duplexes to apartment units to single family (homes).”

The plans also included room for community spaces and businesses, such as a yoga studio, coffee shop or preschool. Community gardens and parks were shown bordering some of the homes in the drawings.

The housing development will be hooked up to Langley’s network of utilities. The city’s wastewater treatment plant is north of the proposed development.

The project is required to include affordable housing, at least in part. The city council agreed in 2020 that “permanently affordable” language should be added to the agreement between the developer and the city.

However, a “significant portion” of the project will include homes sold at the market rate, as a member of the consulting group leading the meeting pointed out.

The city’s Affordable Housing Sub-Committee will determine the percentage or number of “permanently affordable” homes that the development, or any other potential planned unit developments, must have.

Multiple people attending the meeting expressed concern about construction noise and the amount of traffic that neighbors of Coles Road will have to bear over the next several years.

One neighbor of the area, Fergus Ferrier, quipped that he was anticipating a “bait-and-switch.”

“I suspect strongly that this utopian, low-income stuff is just a front, a window-dressing, for what is going to be a rich person’s enclave,” he said.

Another neighbor, Janis Machala, questioned whether Coles Valley is the right location on the South End for workforce housing, given its lack of access to public transportation.

She also pointed out that the cost of utilities in Langley cannot exactly be considered affordable.

“That is not low-income pricing,” she said. “The basic cost of water for a renter or for a homeowner is very, very expensive monthly.”

Others had concerns about the land’s topography and the number of homes that may be built on it.

“I can’t believe that that property can support that number of families,” David Stenberg said. “There are places where the terrain is extremely steep and the soil here is mostly sandy.”

At least one Langley resident saw potential for the new development to mitigate climate change and adapt to the climate crisis.

“This is the biggest opportunity I can see on Whidbey Island to respond to the climate crisis through infrastructure because it’s not built yet,” Vicki Robin said.

Robin, who is a member of the city’s Climate Crisis Action Committee, suggested incorporating ways to control water flow and storage into the designs, such as the use of cisterns.

“Water is extraordinarily expensive in Langley,” she said. “We can have all the nice little gardens we want but if we’re not providing a way for harvesting water from the sky so we can water our gardens, that’s an added expense.”

The video of the meeting can be viewed on the city’s website,

The project proposal will be presented to the city’s Planning Advisory Board at its Jan. 5 meeting. From there, next steps will include submitting an application to the city’s planning department.