Make room for Home Depot

With a building measuring more than 100,000 square feet, not to mention a proposed 25,000-square-foot garden center, Home Depot plans to take up a lot of room.

And that’s not counting the massive 418-space parking lot that will need to be built in front of the store.

Because of its size, and its high-volume parking lot, Home Depot won’t sit right off of Highway 20. Indeed, the company plans to construct a new traffic signal off the highway to guide cars onto a newly created access road.

The front of the store would sit about a football field away from Highway 20.

That means those who live in the Ely Street neighborhood, just blocks from Oak Harbor’s downtown, may soon have a new over-size neighbor — one that sits 50 feet away from the backyard fence line of homes that line the east side of the street.

Also affected will be the residents who live along southeast Castle Park Court, a cul-de-sac that sits off of southeast Eighth Avenue. The store’s garden center would sit 50 feet from those homes’ back property line.

An old gray barn, long a visual landmark, also will need to be demolished, or perhaps, moved.

Oak Harbor Senior Planner Larry Cort said he and others in the planning department are sensitive to residents’ concerns.

“We’re interested in trying to apply our standards and make the project the best fit possible, not only for the community but also for the neighbors,” he said. “We’re interested in hearing from them.”

Home Depot will need to landscape the back end of its building, and a back access road, with a mix of trees and shrubbery. The company also will be required to build some kind of a wall to block noise.

The city’s codes call for cut-off lighting, reducing the impact of parking lot and store lights on neighboring properties. The city also has landscaping codes.

For instance, the city’s codes requires that 15 percent of the parking lot be landscaped. Also, the codes call for perimeter landscaping, which will reduce the visual impact of a boxy building on the surrounding neighborhood.

The company already has submitted a noise study, Cort said, which is available for residents to look over at City Hall.

City staffers are studying the company’s application right now to make sure it is complete. Assuming that it is, residents who live within 300 feet of the proposed project will receive notification in the mail.

Others who want to be updated can call the city and ask to be added to the list, Cort said.

As it stands, almost all of the pastoral field that was once farmland in decades past, will be plowed under to make room for the new mega-store. A dense cluster of trees that stands next to the Whidbey Community Physicians complex off Cabot Drive, also will be cut down, as will various bushes and hedges that now dot the field.

A wetland sits at the southern edge of Home Depot’s proposed building site. The company has several options for reducing the impact on wildlife that depend on the environmentally sensitive area.

For property owners whose backyards sit beside the proposed home improvement store, the one piece of good news is that the land naturally slopes downward toward the highway. That means the store’s roofline will be a bit lower than it would otherwise be.

“That topography should help,” Cort said.

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