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Oak Harbor needs more than Big Macs | Editorial

A regional TV news report about the “supersizing” of Oak Harbor was more than a little premature.

Construction of a third McDonald’s restaurant on North Whidbey isn’t imminent and may not happen at all.

As the Whidbey News-Times reported weeks ago, the fast-food giant submitted a pre-application for construction of a restaurant at the site of the former Ford dealership, which is the big empty lot at the corner of State Highway 20 and Barrington Drive.

A pre-application is only the very preliminary stage of a project. The fast food giant may or may not move forward with a project.

It could take years.

Maybe there’s time for an alternative to come forward. Maybe the city can create incentives that would encourage a local entrepreneur to build something besides a fast-food joint or big-box store on the highly visible site.

A locally owned business that creates local jobs and is involved in the community would be the ideal solution. An aesthetically pleasing building would be a bonus.

Mayor Scott Dudley named a planner as the new economic development coordinator and started an ad hoc committee on economic development. They’ve talked about incentives.

Perhaps a potential investor or business could be recruited.

The News-Times story provoked a big reaction online. Many people complained about the proliferation of fast-food restaurants in the city and the dearth of dining options. Some people want a seafood restaurant, others an upscale burger joint.

Nobody, it seems, wants a new McDonald’s.

Some people point out that it’s not up to the community or city government to decide what happens in a free market. They suggest the bellyachers will line up at the drive-through if a new McDonald’s is built. Years ago, the community pushed city leaders to stop Walmart from coming in, but lost in court. Now the parking lot is perpetually full.

Litigation isn’t the answer.

The city and the community should find creative, pro-active solutions to encourage development that offers more than Big Macs and minimum wages.

 

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