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Mobile home park’s fate awaits council decision

Cliff Howard voices his concern to the City Council over a possible land use designation change in Oak Harbor. Howard makes his home on Easy Street, which abuts the Goldie Road properties that are included in the 2008 comprehensive plan amendments.  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News Times
Cliff Howard voices his concern to the City Council over a possible land use designation change in Oak Harbor. Howard makes his home on Easy Street, which abuts the Goldie Road properties that are included in the 2008 comprehensive plan amendments.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News Times

The future remains uncertain for the residents of Evergreen Mobile Home Park, a senior community off Goldie Road, but Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik says the City Council cares very much about their situation.

“You have my word that ... I will do all I can to help you find another spot, if that comes to be,” he said at a City Council meeting last week.

The residents of Evergreen are up in arms about Oak Harbor landowner Sean Byrne’s application to the city to change the property’s land use designation change from planned industrial park (PIP) to community commercial (C3), which would allow restaurants and retail.

Byrne owns three properties off Goldie Road, totaling 16 acres, which he plans to develop.

“It is my intention to rezone the property for its best use of C-3 designation and to create a large commercial development,” he wrote in a letter submitted to the city of Oak Harbor planning department, dated April 22, 2008.

And Byrne’s plans to develop the property would mean that Evergreen park residents would have to move their homes elsewhere or find another place to live.

Tuesday night’s City Council meeting included a hearing to allow public comment on the matter of the land use change. The hearing did not cover Byrne’s intended development, as Slowik reminded several speakers, including Byrne’s lawyer, Paul Neumiller of Oak Harbor, who spoke on Byrne’s behalf.

Byrne could give notice to the residents of Evergreen at any time, Neumiller said, regardless of the current or possible change in land use designation.

Neumiller said that Byrne would rather develop his property under a C3 designation, “substituting what could be smoke stacks for shopping carts.”

“Your only choice for development is Goldie Road,” he told council members.

Should the council approve the change, it’s unknown how long it would be before commercial development takes place.

“I don’t know. Mr. Byrne doesn’t know. It is hard to predict in these times,” Neumiller said. “All the retailers that Mr. Byrne has spoken to have said that they will not commit until after all the zoning and permits are in place.”

Goldie Road and nearby residents are getting used to the public meeting protocol at city hall. At least a dozen people attended the planning commission’s Oct. 28 public hearing on the issue to determine the recommendation to City Council, but the commission said it needed more information before they could vote on the Goldie Road properties.

The residents made another trip to city hall on Nov. 18 for a presentation on affordable housing by the Snohomish Housing Authority.

Then, at the planning commission’s next meeting on Nov. 25, they silently witnessed the commission’s vote to recommend approval of Byrne’s application to City Council. This time they brought friends and supporters.

Not only did the mobile home owners attend the third public meeting on the issue, held Dec. 2 in front of City Council, but they brought an increasing number of supporters.

“I wish Mr. Byrne would come one of these times. We see his lawyer all the time,” Keith McFaul said following Neumiller’s comments to the council. McFaul and his family lease a Goldie Road home from Byrne. The same sentiment is shared by many of Byrne’s Evergreen park tenants who say he does not return their calls.

Gary Robinson, who makes his home in Evergreen park, called Byrne’s ties to the community “unadulterated poppycock,” referring to a letter Byrne submitted to the Whidbey News-Times explaining his intent to develop the land for the sake of the community.

“He’s deceitful, lacks consideration, fails to provide for his tenants. He could care less for Oak Harbor,” he claimed.

Following Robinson’s comments, again, Slowik asked for comments to be kept to the land use changes.

“Could you bring it back to the zoning?” he said.

Following the public comment period, Steve Powers, city director of development services, fielded question from council.

Councilman Bob Severns noted that he heard some information for the first time in regards to the possible land use change of the Goldie Road properties, calling the period between Tuesday’s meeting and the next council meeting Dec. 16 a “critical time.”

During that time, council will look over the application, public comments and planning commission minutes.

The next meeting will be the first opportunity for council to vote on the issue, said Powers.

Whether or not the council decides to vote depends on how prepared they feel to do so, he said.

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