Barring any new or unforeseen obstacles, the Dog House in Langley will get its fabled building permit this week.
The document, which has been years in the making, will green light about $1.2 million in renovations, and ultimately pave the way for the reopening of this much loved and missed First Street icon. This is great news. The Dog House’s future has long been in question, and the permit’s issuance will be an important first step toward ensuring a new future for the more than 100-year-old building.
But it’s been a long road, and the trials associated with the project are an excellent example of the difficulties of modern-day development when it comes to structures of historical significance. They’re old, expensive to save, and further complicated by public sentiment and opinion. Planners and saviors/developers (depending how you look at them) often have to wrestle the sometimes fine line of preserving a piece of the past while remaining financially realistic. It’s a recipe for friction, and certainly one that’s boiled up with the Dog House renovation.
Building owners Charlie and Janice Klein and officials at city hall have been doing this waltz for several years and it appears the dance is nearing an end. While some might be quick to say that Langley, a town with a reputation for being not-so-business friendly, made the process too arduous, we’d argue that’s a bit unfair. As we mentioned above, these are challenging projects that require a lot of balancing.
One thing the city should reflect on, however, is the use of improvement or maintenance sureties. Per city code, they are essentially monetary deposits that city officials can require of developers to ensure a project is completed. If they’re not, for whatever reason, then the city uses the funds to finish things up.
No doubt there are special circumstances that warrant such steps, but they should be outlined in the code and not subjectively enforced. Also, it seems risky to apply them to projects that are already dancing on the knife of financial viability.
Overall, however, both the Kleiners and the city should be congratulated for powering through this tough process. We’re eager for the reopening of the Dog House, as is the rest of South Whidbey.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story contained incorrect information about the past use of sureties. They have been used in the past.