Oak Harbor council upholds one-way vote in tumultuous meeting

Bill Massey told the council,
Bill Massey told the council, 'I think you have a good plan, and I think you should stick to it.' The revitalization will only be successful if the plan accounts for the additional parking and and enriched shopping experience, he said.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

The decision is final: Pioneer Way in Oak Harbor will be a one-way street.

The decision Tuesday night didn't come without a little civil unrest.

During the City Council's discussion of the issue, Mayor Jim Slowik called on Oak Harbor Police Chief Rick Wallace to escort downtown property and business owner Frank Scelzi from the meeting for talking out of order. Wallace's presence was enough to quiet Scelzi, a vocal opponent of a one-way downtown, and he remained in the room for the rest of the meeting.

Oak Harbor Councilman Scott Dudley's motion to rescind the one-way decision made in December ultimately failed by a 3-4 vote.

Dudley, Danny Paggao and Jim Campbell voted in favor of retaining a two-way downtown; Bob Severns, Rick Almberg, Jim Palmer and Beth Munns voted in favor of the one-way option.

Only Munns' vote was changed from December, when she had supported the two-way option.

Tuesday's vote followed more than an hour of public comment and an hour-and-a-half-long City Council discussion.

Everyone from former mayors Patty Cohen and Al Koetje, to downtown business owners, shoppers, and various city residents, spilled into the lobby at City Hall as they waited their turn to address the council.

In all, 44 speakers approached to the dais. Thirty-six urged the council to rescind its one-way decision; four supported the one-way vote; and four advised the council members to take a hard look at parking, work with the businesses through the construction phase and make a final decision with integrity and honor.

Nearly drowned out by applause and the sound of his gavel, Mayor Jim Slowik urged the audience to maintain order and "quiet down" following comments in support of the one-way decision.

Although there was a new player in Councilman Dudley, last night's vote remained the same as the City Council's 4-3 Dec. 1 vote due to Munns' decision to "respect the democratic process." Munns, who originally voted for the two-way, changed her vote to one-way. Dudley, who replaced Councilman Eric Gerber (a one-way proponent), voted in favor or a two-way.

A dozen or so somber audience members who stuck out the four-and-a-half-hour meeting filed out of the council chamber following the 10:15 p.m. vote.

Jill Schacht is uncertain of the downtown's economic future. Her business, Casual House, will celebrate it's 47th anniversary next Month, but she's worried about the clothing boutique's future.

"I'm going to do what my bottom line dictates and I don't think it'll be good," she said.

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