It appears that Oak Harbor’s new sewage treatment facility will be built somewhere near Pioneer Way, in the vicinity of Windjammer Park, but there’s no guarantee officials will find a willing seller.
The Oak Harbor City Council voted on a resolution last month that limits the possible sites for the proposed $93.5-million facility to the “vicinity of Windjammer” and specifically rules out the “Freund property” that Mayor Scott Dudley had touted.
Dudley said he isn’t pleased with the decision, especially since it could lead to the city taking private, commercial property through eminent domain.
“I would not be in favor of a condemnation action, especially when we have a willing seller,” he said.
Dudley proposed in October that the city consider building the wastewater treatment plant on an undeveloped 6-acre site on Beeksma Drive.
The property, which is owned by Carl Freund, was overlooked as a possible site during a two-year siting process that culminated at a city council meeting in August. The mayor broke a 3-3 tie, favoring the Windjammer vicinity as the site for the plant.
But then Freund called the mayor and offered to sell the residentially zoned property for the sewer project.
A couple of residents of the Dillard’s Addition neighborhood adjacent to the property said during a council meeting that they weren’t opposed to the idea.
Dudley brought the idea to the council; the council members approved a contract amendment with the engineering firm to do field work and soil borings at a number of sites around Windjammer, including the Freund property.
Cathy Rosen, the city’s public works director, presented the council with the results of the field work at the Nov. 20 meeting.
She said the Freund property presents additional risk associated with environmental permitting and flood protection.
As a result, the council passed the resolution ruling out the Freund site.
Councilman Rick Almberg said in an interview that the risk associated with the Freund site weighed on him in making the decision.
He said the engineers bored down 52 feet at the site and still didn’t hit solid ground. In addition, the property is seven feet below other sites, increasing flood risks.
Dudley, on the other hand, argued that the council shouldn’t have taken the property out of consideration until more questions are answered.
He proposed, for example, that the footprint of the plant could be changed to become more efficient and inexpensive at the roomier Freund site.
“I’m frustrated with the outcome because I like options,” he said.
In addition, he pointed out that siting the plant on Pioneer Way could mean taking a big piece of commercial property off the tax rolls.
But as it stands, Dudley said the city will took at all possible options around Windjammer Park, sans the Freund property. The property the engineers had focused on so far is the former Chevrolet dealership on Pioneer Way, which is where Pioneer Automotive Services is currently located. Dudley said the owner has expressed hesitancy about selling.
Dudley said officials are also looking at the Whidbey Island Bank administrative building, the parking lot adjacent to Windjammer Park, the Oak Harbor Motors site and a property at the corner of Highway 20 and Pioneer Way. He said they are trying to find creative ways of dividing the land and siting the plant to have as little impact on the businesses as possible.
“Wherever it ends up,” he said, “I would like to continue to sharpen our pencils to bring the costs down as much as possible.”