Court reversal lets Oak Harbor grow

The city of Oak Harbor may have a growth spurt soon.

Next Tuesday, City Council members will decide whether to move forward with two annexation requests that together will add nearly 30 acres to the city. And additional annexations may become more common or at least easier in the future because of a recent state Supreme Court ruling.

Last month, the high court unanimously reversed itself on a ruling made two years ago striking down the petition method for annexation, which was by far the most common way cities grow.

“The ruling returns the old petition method to the city,” said city Development Services Director Steve Powers. “We will be able to accept petitions and proceed with annexations in a more timely manner.”

The process allows property owners to petition a city for annexation. The annexation can go through if a person or group owning 60 percent or more of the assessed value of the area agrees to it.

The Legislature passed a revised petition method last year, but the process was still unwieldly since it involves getting owners of acreage and registered voters to sign on. Powers said the method had a “blind spot” in how to handle undeveloped land where no voters lived.

Nevertheless, City Council members will consider two proposed annexations through the revised petition method next Tuesday.

The first one is the so-called Easy Street annexation, which has also been dubbed the Douglas / Coachman annexation. Joel Douglas, owner of the Coachman Inn and Harbor Lands Company, plans to expand the hotel by building a conference facility on the 1.33 acres on the south side of NE Easy Street, between NE Koetje and Goldie roads, according to city officials.

Douglas has been trying to annex the land since 1998, but has been prevented for various reasons. Most recently, the Supreme Court decision two years ago stopped it from going forward. If annexed, the land will be zoned C-3 community commercial.

The other proposal is the Palmer / Daugherty annexation of 27.97 acres located on the north side of West Fort Nugent Road, west of the Whidbey Golf & Country Club. Brian Gentry, owner of Landed Gentry Development, plans to build a housing development in the area.

If annexed, the land would be zoned R-1, single family. That would allow a density of three to six dwelling units per acre, or a potential population of 166 to 668 people.

City staff is recommending that the council approve the two annexation agreements and adopt the annexation ordinances.

Thursday night, city staff held a workshop with the council members on annexations and systems development fees. Powers said that staff recommends that a third annexation request, the Burley / Torpedo Road annexation, be put on hold until a traffic study in the area is complete. The annexation request is for a three-acre, triangle-shaped parcel created by Regatta Drive, Crescent Harbor and Torpedo roads.

The city received a $60,000 grant from the Regional Transportation Planning Organization to study the intersections of Regatta Drive, Crescent Harbor and Torpedo roads.

Councilmember Sue Karahalios said she was concerned about the area because of the high number of accidents there recently.

Also, City Attorney Phil Bleyhl said the proposed Lolbi business park annexation for 4.5 acres on the east side of N. Oak Harbor Road has been cancelled because the parcel was sold.

In the end, the council members and staff agreed that there are many issues related to annexation that need to be looked into, such as whether the city should seek to “square off” boundaries or how it should promote infill annexation. Powers discussed the idea of the city investing in infrastructure as a way to encourage growth and annexations in a certain area.

The officials only briefly discussed the Goldie Road industrial area, which was targeted for possible annexation when the Supreme Court ruling came down two years ago, effectively halting the process.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at or call 675-6611.

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