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Park land vote demanded

The son of a late Oak Harbor councilman pointed out a potential wrinkle with the new downtown and waterfront revitalization plan created by tourism consultant Roger Brooks.

Rex Hankins, Jr., son of Rex Hankins, Sr., addressed the council at the April 19 meeting. He said a unique section of the city codes regarding the sale or exchange of real property would prevent the city from swapping park land.

Under Brooks’ plan, officially called the Waterfront, Redevelopment, Branding and Marketing Program, the ball fields at City Beach Park — renamed Windjammer Park — would be moved to another area of the city.

In their place, Brooks proposed that the city build a large event center on top of the current ball fields. He envisioned a waterfront hotel that would be adjacent, possibly connected to the event center.

Hankins, however, explained that his father was instrumental in getting a city law passed which would prevent such a land swap. Councilman Hankins was upset about a proposal to swap the city’s Flintstone Park, so he proposed a law that prevents the sale, lease or exchange of park land without a vote of the people.

“Developed city park property shall not be disposed of in any manner,” Hankins said, reading the city code, “without citizen approval in an election.”

Afterward, City Administrator Thom Myers said city council members and staff were already aware of the city code and the potential problem. He said possible solutions could be that the current council simply change the city code, that the event center could be located elsewhere or that the council could hold an election to see if the public supports the swap.

After all, the event center would still remain city property.

Hankins said the council should hold an election on the issue as soon as possible to see if there is “a mandate” from the people to do the project. He warned that residents would be angry if the council simply changed the city code.

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