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Brew, burger, road wanted

Should the city of Oak Harbor spend $225,000 on hamburgers, beer and pavement?

Next Tuesday, council members will decide whether to help pay for an extension of Bayshore Drive so that Bob’s Burgers and Brew can afford to build a hamburger restaurant on Highway 20 at the south end of town, adjacent to Whidbey Island Bank.

City staff says it’s a good deal. The road extension will run behind the bank, 7-Eleven, Burger King and Schuck’s, improving access to the businesses and diverting some traffic off the busy section of Highway 20.

Hungry people will get another eating option. Bob’s Burgers, which began in Lynden, is a gourmet hamburger restaurant that offers its own beer, Bob’s Copper Ale.

Plus, the remaining vacant parcels in the area would become more enticing to developers, which could translate into new business in the city.

A developer for Bob’s Burgers has been looking for months at the possibility of locating at the empty land owned by the Freund family, but found the cost prohibitive.

According to the architect George Hanson, it will still cost more than $2.3 million to build a restaurant in Oak Harbor — if the city helps pay for the road — while it only cost $1.79 million to build in Burlington. It’s a difference of more than $500,000.

City Development Services Director Steve Powers said, under city code, the developer is required to build the segment of S.W. Bayshore Drive, adjacent to the restaurant.

Powers said it is in the mutual interest of both the restaurant and the city to complete Bayshore Drive from Beeksma Drive to where it currently ends, behind Whidbey Island Bank.

The city estimates that the road construction would cost about $505,000. Under the proposal, the city will pay $224,500, Bob’s Burger will pay $98,000 and the property owner will pay $229,500. The property in the area is owned by the Freund family.

They donated the large adjacent wetland, dubbed the Freund Marsh, to the city years ago.

Of course, some business people may not be happy about the prospect of a new sit-down restaurant. Bob’s Burger may compete with several new restaurants, including Flyers, Applebee’s and Seabolts.

Yet Powers pointed out that the Bayshore Drive road project is part of the city’s capital improvement plan and there’s money in the transportation fund for the project. By partnering with the developer and owner, Powers said the city is saving money on roads.

“The city will still end up paying less than half the cost of the roadway,” he said.

Powers said the road construction would make the other vacant land in the area more likely to develop. He said there could be three of four more businesses built there, depending on the size.

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

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