News

Don't overdo regulations city warned

Oak Harbor City Council members decided to continue a moratorium Tuesday night on development within accident potential zones, or APZs, off the end of a Navy base runway.

But the controversy may not be over, even though a development plan that was the target of the moratorium has been withdrawn. The city’s next step is to draft new development regulations for the APZ area during the four months left of the moratorium.

Property owners and others are already urging the city not to be overly restrictive in the new regulations. On the other side, city staff members have said the zoning could be more restrictive than the Navy recommends for land that falls within APZs.

In fact, Don Boyer suggested a possible lawsuit if the city’s development regulations for the APZ do indeed encumber beyond Navy recommendation. He is the trustee for a 17-acre parcel at the corner of Highway 20 and Fakkema Road that falls under the APZ.

“If there is any attempt to down-zone the property,” Boyer said in a written statement Thursday, “or to place restrictions on the property that exceed the restrictions by the Navy and the Department of Defense, already agreed to by the owners, then we will decide what action will be taken after conferring with our land-use attorney.”

According to paperwork from the city’s development services department, there’s not much difference between allowable uses in the current C-4 zoning and what the Navy recommends for uses in APZ-2.

Nearly 55 of the 60 acres in question fall under APZ-2, which is the less restrictive zone. About 5.5 acres, owned by Boyer, fall under APZ-1, where there’s a greater danger of an aircraft crashing. In addition to Boyer, the moratorium affects Joel Douglas of Harbor Lands, Westgate Mobile Home, as well as the Jaeger and Salazar families.

The biggest difference between permitted land uses in C-4 and what’s permitted by the Navy’s suggested compatibility for APZ-2 concerns restaurants. The city’s regulations allow restaurants but the Navy doesn’t.

But City Development Services Director Steve Powers said revising the city’s zoning code won’t be as easy as crossing off restaurants as allowed uses. He said the city also needs to look at density limits and go through a process that involves state agencies, the Navy and public hearings.

Powers said the new regulations should be “at least compatible with the APZ code recommendations,” or the city “could choose to be more conservative.”

The purpose of the public hearing Tuesday was for council members to decide if there are enough reasons, or findings, to justify continuing the moratorium.

City Attorney Phil Bleyhl provided the council members with a long list of findings to support the moratorium. Most notable is the issue of encroachment, or incompatible development around the Navy base. City leaders worry that encroachment could make the base more vulnerable to closure under the Base Realignment and Closure process.

Bleyhl discussed the importance of the Navy to the city’s economy. The base provides about 68 percent of the total employment in the county.

Joel Douglas of Coachman Inn spoke also against the moratorium and asked the City Council not to overdo restrictions.

“Take only what you need and no more,” he said.

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

Community Events, April 2014

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