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Sold! for $2.2 million

It will take four levels of government to come up with enough cash to purchase about 18 acres of the so-called Boyer property north of Oak Harbor.

In a remarkable show of lobbying prowess, Island County Commissioner Mac McDowell and Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen were able to secure funding from the federal government, the state and the county for the land.

The city of Oak Harbor, the final “level of government” involved in the deal, is holding a special meeting at 6 p.m. tonight, May 23, on the issue. City council members are expected to finalize the purchase, which should close in the first couple of weeks of June.

With this land deal, community leaders say Whidbey Island Naval Air Station retains its status as the Navy base most protected from the encroachment of development, as well as one of the most supported by the community at large.

“This shows the commitment of the community is making for NAS Whidbey,” said City Administrator Paul Schmidt. “We’re serious about keeping encroachment from harming their mission and we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is.”

McDowell admits there have been a lot of naysayers along the way, but maintains that the safety of the community is worth the price of preventing development within the Navy base’s “accident potential zone.”

“Does it make sense to have a shopping center at the end of a runway?” he asked rhetorically.

When all is said and done, the Boyer family will receive $2.2 million and Oak Harbor will own the the 17.79 acres on Highway 20 at the intersection of Fakkema Road.

Under the rather complex deal, the Navy is paying $777,000 for a development easement on the land, which will reduce the number of people allowed per acre from 30 to 10. The county is paying $590,000 in general fund money for an easement to further reduce the number of people per acre to just one.

The state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development is contributing $678,000 toward the purchase of easements, but won’t actually own an easement or land.

Once the easements are purchased, Schmidt said the actual value of “18 acres of dirt” is reduced to about $204,000. The city is stepping in to buy the acreage with money budgeted in the general fund.

The encumbered land won’t be completely worthless for the city. Officials say it could be used for an underground valving station for water, a water tower or storage of equipment.

McDowell said the impetus for protecting the property from development occurred a couple of years ago when the Navy base was redoing a study of noise zones and accident zones surrounding the base in preparation for the new Growler aircraft.

For a reason that McDowell said the Navy never made clear, it turned out that the Navy never had cited an accident potential zone off one of the runways. So when the Navy redid the study, the oversight was corrected and suddenly there was an accident potential zone on property in the city — specifically the Boyer property.

An accident potential zone is simply an area with a greater than normal likelihood that an accident will occur there.

After learning that a developer was interested in the land, McDowell and Cohen teamed up and pushed the city council to place a building moratorium on the land while the city came up with a special zoning overlay for the area.

McDowell explained that encroachment is one of the major considerations the military looks at when deciding which bases will be closed during the Base Realignment and Closure process.

But even with the restriction on development, Cohen and McDowell still felt the best course would be to buy the land and prevent any kind of development permanently.

McDowell, and especially Cohen, took some heat for pursuing the land deal, but nonetheless made it happen.

“There was a lot of moving parts that had to come together,” Schmidt said. “That’s what is so confirming. Four levels of government agreed that the need was there.”

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