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Projected growth seen as boon for Oak Harbor
The number of military personnel at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is estimated to increase by 1,245 people during the next five years as additional P-8A squadrons move in.
The increase, if it holds true, will bring the base back up to 2007 population levels.
Cac Kamak, senior planner for the City of Oak Harbor, estimates that the increase may translate to 2,530 extra people, both military personnel and their families, living on North Whidbey as a direct result of the new squadrons.
Kamak presented the information to the City Council during a recent meeting in which the city adopted Island County’s 20-year population projection.
The business community is pleased with the projections.
“That’s really going to be a huge economic boost,” said Gerry Oliver, a real estate agent in Oak Harbor.
“It’s really a wonderful thing.”
Oliver said the growth will help with the current inventory on the market now, as well as the rental market.
He predicted the growth will also help the bellwether construction industry.
Oliver also said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s announcement about new squadrons “gave a boost of confidence to the construction industry” located on North Whidbey.
When it comes to municipal planning, Kamak said projecting population changes is a vital step in the process of updating both the city’s and the county’s 2016 comprehensive plans, state-mandated documents which govern future development.
“By agreeing with the county’s overall population, we set up a framework in which we can discuss the city’s growth and the city’s population,” Kamak said.
“So it’s really important for all of us to agree on what that total population for Island County is.”
Once the county’s overall population projection is set, planners can start figuring out where the extra people will go and whether boundaries of municipalities such as Oak Harbor will need to be expanded.
The 2010 population of Island County was 78,506. Kamak said the county’s 20-year population project runs from 2016 to 2036.
Kamak said the Island County planning staff researched population demographics and made “a sound case” for a projection that falls between the low and medium estimates provided by the state Office of Financial Management.
As a result, county planners estimated the county population will be 85,387 in the year 2036.
Kamak said the projection doesn’t take into account the increase in personnel from the Navy base because the information wasn’t available when the number was set.
Larsen announced in May that a total of 49 P-8A aircraft would be coming to NAS Whidbey.
That is twice the original plan for 24 P-8As.
Kamak said he requested updated projects from NAS Whidbey and received a graph showing the increase in personnel.
He said he extrapolated from the graph that the new squadrons will bring approximately 1,245 more military personnel to the base, for a total of about 7,400 in 2017.
The graph shows population of Navy personnel is currently at a five-year low with fewer than 7,000 people; about 8,200 personnel were on base in 2007.
The document states that the population declined by 15 percent after 2007 due to “several changes and Navy reductions.”
Kamak said he assumed, for planning purposes, that about 80 percent of the new people arriving with the P-8As will live on North Whidbey.
Applying an average household size of 2.53, Kamak projects the additional P-8As will equate to a population increase of 2,530.
Kamak said the county planners agreed to add that number to the overall population projection, for a grand-total estimate of 87,917 people in the county in 2036.
The city approved the population estimate.
The Island County commissioners are scheduled to hold a public hearing on the projection at 6:15 p.m., Monday, Aug. 26.