City annexes 80 acres

"Despite the objections of residents, the Oak Harbor City Council followed the advice of city staff and voted 6-1 to annex 80 acres into the city Tuesday night.That means the city will soon include space for a future business park and the Hackney controversy has come to an end.A partnership of Oak Harbor businessmen, headed by Robert Fakkema, started the annexation process a year and a half ago. The group, known as Whidbey Tech, secured a purchase option from Robert Hackney, the owner of the southern 40 acres of the 80-acre parcel.The land is just north of town at the end of Gun Club Road.The county put a 10-year building moratorium on the site eight years ago after Hackney illegally clearcut it. But by annexing the land into the city, the moratorium has been nullified.Before the vote, several local resident complained that annexing the land would circumvent the law and reward Hackney.All the things that were wrong eight years ago are just as wrong as today, Gene Coleman said.I ask you not to let (Hackney) rip off the city, county and state and walk away laughing, said Charles Niedzialkowski. Niedzialkowski outlined the history of the land, which he said started with an under-the-table-deal between Hackney and former Oak Harbor Mayor Al Koetje. He said Koetje sold the city land to Hackney at below its value and with very friendly financing through the city. Then Hackney clearcut it without a permit - making hundreds of thousands of dollars over the purchase price - and cheated the state education fund, Niedzialkowski said.Fakkema did not dispute the shady history of the land, but explained that the reason Whidbey Tech plans to buy the land from Hackney is simply to get him out of the picture forever.Councilwoman Sheilah Crider agreed that the city has more to lose if the land stays in Hackney's hands. I don't want to see a junk yard up there, she said.We have an obligation to the citizens of the city, she said. Mr. Hackney means nothing to me.City Planned Tom Burdett pointed out that building a business park on the spot is the third priority in the city's Economic Diversification Plan. The planning department created a planned business park zone - which encourages high-tech and light manufacturing - specifically for the parcel. In addition, he said the acreage is the last undivided chunk of land big enough for a business park.In the end, only Councilman Rex Hankins voted against the annexation."

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