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Oak Harbor approves development to replace mobile home park

A 158-unit apartment complex that will replace an aging mobile home park in Oak Harbor has received the green light from city officials.

The Oak Harbor City Council unanimously approved two measures Tuesday, Oct. 19, concerning the Franklin Manor project, which will see the construction of four four-story buildings on a 5.6 acre lot on Swantown Avenue. It’s currently the location of the Windmill Court mobile home park.

The development’s general contractor, Todd Lapinsky of Bellingham-based Credo Construction, was at Tuesday’s meeting. Although he said this was the project’s last major hurdle and that construction could begin as soon as next month, work won’t start until after the holidays, according to Nat Franklin, the Bellevue-based developer who owns Windmill Court.

“We’re gearing up for the end of the first quarter of the year,” Franklin said.

According to city documents, the project would result in the removal of 42 manufactured homes, 34 of which were occupied as of April 1. The impact to residents will be spread out over time however, as the project is being phased with only the first building and the footprint of the second being initially constructed.

While Franklin didn’t have exact numbers, he said this will allow some residents to continue living in their homes until the other buildings are built. Their construction timeline is based on occupancy; once one building is full, work on the next will begin.

According to property manager Steve Pogacsas, Franklin’s done several things to make the process easier on residents, from keeping them informed about the pending development to promising that any displaced tenants would be given priority for space in the new buildings.

“The owners are doing it the right way and they aren’t putting anyone to the street,” Pogacsas said.

The project has raised some concerns about a lack of affordable housing on Whidbey Island. Addressing the council during Tuesday’s meeting, Oak Harbor resident Mel Vance said this project in particular highlights the need for change in the city code. Franklin was only required to build four low-income housing units and Vance argued that he should have been required to construct at least the same number of units that he was removing.

Although Vance claimed that at least 30 of the mobile homes were low-income homes, Steve Powers, director of Oak Harbor’s development services department, said he could not confirm just how many of the manufactured homes actually meet the states formula for affordable housing.

Although several council members did quiz Powers about the affordable housing aspect of the project, none voiced any significant complaints. In fact, City Councilman Rick Almberg said the project could result in even more low-income housing units over the long term due to the relationship between density and market values.

“In this situation, we may be displacing 34 units of potentially low-income housing... but it also gives you a higher density, which in reality, allows the developer to build more units which reduces his per unit land cost,” Almberg said.

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