News

Moratorium hearing set

On Dec. 13, the Oak Harbor City Council will decide if there are good enough reasons to continue a moratorium on development within accident potential zones, or APZs.

That night, the public is welcome to address the council during a hearing and tell city leaders what they think about the moratorium. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Hall. The meeting was moved from Dec. 6 because of a lack of a quorum.

Council members passed the emergency, six-month moratorium Oct. 18, though they earlier rejected the measure. It’s in response to new map released by the Navy that shows property within the city limits falling under the APZ. That means there’s a slightly increased risk of aircraft taking off or landing at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station of crashing in the zones.

About 60 acres are affected by the moratorium, most notably a 17-acre parcel owned by Don Boyer, a retired car dealer. A Bellevue-based developer wants to build a shopping pavilion on the parcel, but the moratorium has prevented that.

The moratorium was put in place to give city staff time — before a developer begins a project on the property — to create new zoning rules governing land within the APZ. City leaders are also concerned about encroachment on the Navy base that they feel would affect the long-term viability of the installation.

Tuesday, City Attorney Phil Bleyhl gave the council an update on the research he’s done to prepare for the public hearing. He said he’s spend 85 hours so far on the work.

Bleyhl anticipated he’ll have enough legal information necessary to justify the moratorium. To keep the moratorium for the full six months, the city needs to have a public hearing within 60 days of the passage of the ordinance.

While Bleyhl is researching the law, city planners are working on the new zoning rules for APZs. Development Director Steve Powers said they are looking at the Navy’s proposed guidelines for uses within accident potential zones. Powers said the city’s version of the zoning rules, in accordance with the council’s directives, will likely be more restrictive than the Navy’s guidelines.

Boyer and the developer, Nat Franklin, claimed they met with Navy officials who said the proposed 165,000-square-foot building would be a compatible use in the APZ, under the Navy’s proposed zoning standards in accident-prone areas.

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

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