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Dudley resurrects one-way decision in Oak Harbor

Scott Dudley is sworn into office Tuesday night at the council chambers at City Hall. Dudley is new to the council, replacing Eric Gerber. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Scott Dudley is sworn into office Tuesday night at the council chambers at City Hall. Dudley is new to the council, replacing Eric Gerber.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor's newest City Council member stirred the pot Tuesday night with a request to add the Pioneer Way design to the next agenda.

Dudley's request, coming shortly after he was sworn in, will reopen the one-way, two-way debate that's bogged down the council agenda over the last couple of months.

The council voted 4-3 Dec. 1 to opt for the one-way plan for Pioneer Way, but Dudley's presence on the panel may lead to that vote being overturned. Dudley, who's in favor of a two-way street, replaced Eric Gerber who voted for the one-way option.

His call to revisit the street option is a victory for a group of downtown merchants and supporters of a two-way street design, dubbed "Citizens for a Strong Downtown."

The group emerged from the Harborside Merchant Association in early December and quickly collected 1,157 signed petitions to retain a two-way downtown.

Jill Schacht, a longtime downtown businesswoman and owner of the Casual House, resigned as president of the Harborside Merchant Association in December to represent Citizens for a Strong Downtown.

During the public comment segment of Tuesday's meeting, Schacht presented the council with a business survey, which included 41 of the 50 businesses along Pioneer Way between Midway Boulevard and City Beach Street.

According to the survey, 33 businesses favor the two-way design and only seven prefer the one-way option. Just one remains undecided.

Jill Johnson, executive director of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce, announced the chamber's board of directors stands behind the merchants' request to revisit and revise a two-way street plan, she said.

"We applaud you for your desire to improve the downtown and move from conversations about improvements to the decision to put shovel to dirt," Johnson said, encouraging the City Council to partner with the Downtown Merchant Association and chamber of commerce during construction in 2011.

"Regardless of your final decision, the construction will take a toll on our businesses and they will need support and assurance," she said. "The chamber is asking the council to provide additional marketing dollars to the downtown during the construction and two years following, additionally we strongly support a city-funded, part-time merchant group coordinator who can work on programs, events and activities to keep downtown alive during the improvements."

Johnson also requested a working partnership between the city, chamber and merchants to create an "economic revitalization plan" to help local landlords attract tenants "and keep the heart of our community pumping."

Eleven people asked the council to revisit their 4-3 vote to transform Pioneer Way into a one-way street. No one spoke in favor of retaining the one-way street design.

Mayor Jim Slowik expressed concern over community comments that suggested the City Council and staff members have not done their best to closely review the facts and figures before them. He assured the public that council and staff members are paying close attention to the details.

"This has been an issue we have been studying for quite some time," he said.

The City Council will revisit the one-way, two-way street design at its next meeting, Tuesday Jan. 19, 6 p.m., at City Hall, 865 SE Barrington Dr.

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