Oak Harbor to grow by 40 homes

A large residential development near the Whidbey Golf and Country Club received its final go ahead this week when the Oak Harbor City Council approved the project’s final plat.

Known as Division 4, the 40-home neighborhood is located off SW Ft. Nugent Avenue and is the just one phase of the larger 180-home residential development, Fairway Point. The council’s decision was the last bit of red tape Burlington-based Landed Gentry Homes and Communities needed to clear before it could begin applying for building permits.

City Senior Planner Cac Kamac said the project is not overly large for residential developments in the city over the past 10 years Redwing, Fireside, and Cherry Hill each yielded between 111 and 226 homes ‚ but it’s by no means small. If each single family home is occupied by an average of 2.5 people, as many as 450 people will live in the fully developed community.

The entire project received preliminary approval in 2006, and phases one and two, including about 100 homes, have been completed over the past four years. According Landed Gentry President Brian Gentry, phase four would have gone before the council nearly a year ago but was stalled due to the economy.

Gentry said he is hoping phase three, also a 40-home development, will be ready for final plat approval within two years but it also depends on the economy.

“It all depends on the market,” he said.

Landed Gentry, which is acting as the developer, builder, and seller for the project, built the homes to appeal to a wide demographic, from active military to retirees. They range in price from about $250,000 to $450,000, Gentry said.

Once all the homes are built and occupied, that could translate into hefty revenues for the city. Using the 2010 tax rate of $2.04 per $1,000 of assessed value, if all the homes in the development were valued at just $250,000 the city would receive up to $91,800 a year. If all the homes were valued at $350,000, that number would increase to $128,520 a year.

City Finance Director Doug Merriman said it’s not as good as it sounds, however. While all cities get revenue from new development in the form of fees and future property taxes, it is widely debated whether they equal the cost of infrastructure and other city services. It may also be inaccurate to assume the new community would benefit local businesses and bolster sales tax revenue as they don’t always translate to new or more city residents.

According to Merriman, some people may just be moving from one house to another and homes can be left vacant or even rented out to temporary city residents. Although these issues have been widely studied the results are alway inconclusive, and that makes the true economic impact of growth on municipalities nearly impossible to discern.

“That’s one of the big mysteries of development,” Merriman said.

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