City to discuss sewer plans at meeting tonight

Will Oak Harbor lose any of its most valuable park land to a new sewage treatment plant?

The answer to that question may be revealed in a special workshop meeting of the City Council 6 p.m. Wednesday July 9 in council chambers.

The purpose of the workshop is to move closer to a site plan for the 2.5-acre facility, said city Engineer Joe Stowell.

“We hope to refine the location that the treatment plant is going so the project can move forward,” he said.

The city purchased the Whidbey Island Bank building on Pioneer Way in order to build the treatment plant in the back parking lot, which borders the waterfront Windjammer Park. The first phase of the project was estimated to cost about $68 million.

The city already has a sewage treatment plant in the middle of the park, which made many residents sensitive about the prospects of a new malodorous facility or the thought of losing more parkland to sewage treatment.

City leaders repeatedly maintained that the new plant would be virtually odor free due to the new technology of sewage treatment. City Council members and the mayor promised there would be no loss of park space.

Mayor Scott Dudley recently reiterated that there will be “no net loss” of park land even if the plant protrudes into the park. He pointed out that the aging — and sometimes fetid — sewage treatment plant will be largely removed once the new plant comes online, creating new park space nearer the water and more breathable air.

Another wrinkle in the process is that a nearby employer has a parking easement on a portion of the city’s property behind the bank. Stowell said approving a site plan will allow the city to move forward with resolving the issue.

Stowell said the city’s staff will be presenting a preferred site plan and an alternative at the meeting; the plans will decide exactly where the components of the treatment facility will be located.

The proposals, he said, were created with both technical requirements and public opinion in mind.

The city held an open house earlier this year; more recently, city staff and consulting engineers held “a community design charrette” in which residents and stakeholders studied the issue in depth.

Stowell said he hopes to have a decision from council members next February about the actual architecture of the buildings.

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