County puts Noble Creek on hold

Island County put the brakes on a plan to help Langley pay for an eight-acre conservation easement this week.

On Monday, the Board of Commissioners was scheduled to vote on a contract that would have provided the city with $175,000 in conservation futures funding for the Noble Creek project.

It was the last step in the funding process as the conservation futures funding allocations were approved last year.

Instead of approving the contract, the board tabled the issue until June.

District 1 Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said details changed from the original funding proposal and expressed concern about the property’s value.

To be safe, she asked to hold off making a decision until those questions could be answered.

“I would feel more confident if we had an appraisal review,” Price Johnson said. “I just want to double check.”

Board Chairwoman Kelly Emerson was not present – she was out of state – and Commissioner Jill Johnson voiced no objection to postponing the decision until after more information is gathered.

“I think it would best … so everyone is confident when we make the decision,” Johnson said.

Last year, city officials sought $600,000 in Conservation Futures Funding to buy 11.4 acres of undeveloped property along Noble Creek, east of Camano Avenue. The idea was to preserve the area as open space, create trail connectivity and provide public access to the waterfront.

Program funding requests are reviewed by two advisory groups before being forwarded to the commissioners for final approval.

One of the committees, the technical advisory group, recommended Langley instead pursue a $175,000  conservation easement on eight of the 11 acres.

The remaining property would remain open for development with as many as 20 new homes, according to Langley officials.

The commissioners Monday pondered holding the contract until Langley has the property appraised, but opted instead to discuss the issue during a future weekly work session.

Jeff Arango, planning director for Langley, said the delay is frustrating as conditions for an appraisal were hammered out last year during the funding review process.

An appraisal would be done, but after the contract was signed. Half of the $7,000 would be paid by the county, the other by the property owner.

The project is on a shoestring budget and the City of Langley wasn’t planning to cover the cost out of pocket, Arango said.

“If they are telling us we have to have that done before they approve the contract, we’ll have to rethink that.”

Arango said he doubts that the issue will be much of an obstacle and that he is hopeful the confusion can be worked out by the time the board hears the issue again.

“I’m pretty confident we’ll get it worked out one way or another,” he said.

Once the issue is hammered out and contract approved, the city is expected to move quickly to purchase the easement, he said.


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