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Growth line expansion proposed

The mayor is among the owners of a half-dozen properties totaling 415 acres surrounding Oak Harbor who want their land to be included within the city’s urban growth area, a boundary just outside the city limits that may be re-drawn this year.

For city residents, the designation of the urban growth area is a window into how Oak Harbor may look in 20 years or so. It could mean the difference between a densely-populated or sprawling city.

For the six properties owners, the inclusion of their land into the urban growth area may translate to money — or increased value — if it means their lots are more developable. One of those landowners standing to gain by the decision is Mayor Patty Cohen.

A group of Oak Harbor residents, called the Comprehensive Plan Task Force, is trying to decide how the city should grow over the next 20 years and beyond. They represent the first step in the process to amend and update the city’s Comprehensive Plan, a growth-planning document required under Growth Management Act.

One of the major issues that the task force members are contemplating is the urban growth area. This boundary is the area where the city is supposed to expand in the next 20 years.

Larry Cort, senior planner for Oak Harbor, said only land within the urban growth area can be annexed into the city. With annexation comes access to city services, including water and sewer.

Cort said the first step for the task force is to decide whether or not the city boundaries and urban growth areas need to grow at all. The city has estimated that about 10,000 addition people will live within the urban growth area in 2025, which would be a total population of 30,419. Planners estimate that the city needs to accommodate 3,190 new single and multi-family homes over that period.

According to Cort, Oak Harbor has been growing at an average rate of 145 new residences per year for the past five years. Further, the average population gain per decade since 1950 has been 3,586 new residents.

Perhaps surprisingly, Cort said city planners have determined that there is already enough capacity within the city and the current urban growth boundary.

The planners looked at all the vacant land and underdeveloped land in the growth area. They concluded that the current housing capacity is 3,392, which is 202 more than needed.

Yet Cort pointed out that state law allows municipalities to size their urban growth boundaries up to 125 percent of the estimated need.

“We recognize that some of the lots won’t develop,” he said. There may be a five-acre lot, for example, that’s zoned to be high-density residential, but the owner may choose to keep only one house on it.

As a result, the task force will have to decide how much of a cushion — the extra population capacity — is desirable. The group will likely take up the issue again at the April 13 meeting.

If the task forced decides to recommend that the urban growth area be expanded, they will also have to decided where it should move to. There are six property owners who have opinions on the subject.

Cort said the task force received six letters from property owners who would like to have their land included into new urban growth area. They include:

Hillcrest Properties, Inc. requested that 40 acres west of Oak Harbor be included in the UGA. Hillcrest Properties is a corporation. The stockholders are Jacob and Patricia Cohen, Erling and Cynthia Bangston, and Jeanie Kieswetter. The land lies north of Patton’s Hillcrest Village.

The letter states that the land was completely clear cut many years ago, before it was purchased by Hillcrest Properties. The letter does not state what the plans are for the land.

Douglas and Sherry Wirth requested that 20 parcels, a total of 160 acres, on Boon Road be included in the UGA. The letter does not indicate future plans for the land.

Chuck and Gail Jaeger requested that a 10-acre parcel on Torpedo Road north of Oak Harbor, the current site of a Christmas tree farm, be included in the UGA. The letter mentions the possibility of “future development.”

Terry Hansen, representing eight property owners, requested that about 15 acres north of Oak Harbor on Old Goldie Road be included in the UGA. The letter does not mention any plans for the land.

* Five members of the Fakkema family submitted a letter requesting that the 180-acre Beachview Farm property be included in the UGA. The land is due west of the city, contingent to Whidbey Country Club Estates. The letter states that the land could be used for a single-family housing development.

* Bruce Platt, president of the Walker Heights Association, requested that a total of 10 acres — 28 individual lots — off Balda Road be included in the UGA. The lots are owned by seven families. The lots are platted for single-family homes.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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