New rentals rare in Coupeville

In Oak Harbor, the addition of 11 new rental units would be ho-hum news. But in Coupeville it’s not something that happens every day. Or every month. Or even every year.

In fact, according to Larry Cort, Coupeville town planner, it has been about 12 years since any multi-family units have been built in town.

“We average eight (residential) units a year,” Cort said this week. “They were all single family until this one came online.”

He was referring to Cobblestone Cottages, a project developed by long-time Coupeville residents John and Maxine Varga. One four-plex is now substantially complete while another fourplex and a triplex have been approved for the site and will be built soon. It’s located on South Main, just before Prairie Market.

John Varga has spent the last 25 years working at the location, but it wasn’t as apartment manager. He owned Varga Automotive, which was taken down to build the cottages.

In Coupeville, new developments are scrutinized critically, but the Vargas have had few if any problems with their plans, according to Cort. “It was a conditional use, but it got quite a lot of support,” he said.

Maxine Varga laughs that some of that strong support came from the prospect of John tearing down his garage, a big steel structure that was by no means attractive. “They were pretty happy to take the garage down,” she said of townsfolk. “There are no more garages allowed in town.”

The Vargas moved to Coupeville a quarter century ago to get away from California and raise their kids, Scott and Lisa, in a good environment. But Maxine has deep roots in the community. Her grandmother, Ethel Smith, was born there in 1887 and her grandfather Ed was well known years ago for his smelt business. “John and I met in California,” she said. “We came back here to get away from it all.” She worked for the hospital while John fixed cars, and through the years they acquired two adult family homes, one of which, Sonshine House, is located next to Cobblestone Cottages.

The cottages are aimed at people 50 years of age and older who want to live in a quiet place but still like being in town, close to shopping and other amenities.

The Vargas are proud of their cottages, which feature such things as in-floor radiant heat, gas fireplaces, Craftsman style architecture, and all the conveniences of modern living. Plus, they are wheelchair accessible. The buildings were designed by their son Scott, who works out of Tacoma.

One bedroom, one bath units contain 716 square feet and rent for $1,090 a month, including heat, water and sewer, trash pick-up and fireplace propane. The two-bedroom, two-bath units cost $1,490 monthly. The Vargas say the rent is less expensive than similar facilities in Oak Harbor, Anacortes and LaConner where many older Coupeville residents have had to move in order to find a suitable place to live.

“Until now, they’ve had to stay in their house or move to the mainland or Oak Harbor,” Maxine said of her prospective renters.

The Vargas call their cottages “a luxurious place to call home.” For more information call 678-6618.

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