Council declines to intervene for Wright’s Crossing

A developer with plans to build a large housing development south of Oak Harbor wants the city of Oak Harbor on his side.

During a council workshop Thursday, Scott Thompson, of Wright’s Crossing LLC, asked the city council to join the group’s challenge against Island County before the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board.

Thompson asked the city to become an “intervener,” defined as an interested party that joins a lawsuit.

Thompson argued that the city has an interest in seeing the project go forward. He said it will help with the lack of affordable housing in the area, improve city infrastructure — including traffic — and increase the property tax roll by $375 million.

The citizen group Whidbey Environmental Action Network already filed a motion to become an intervener on the county’s side.

The council, however, didn’t agree to the request.

Council members went into executive session to discuss the issue and took no action after emerging from behind closed doors.

Deadline for filing a motion to intervene is Tuesday, Feb. 20.

Wright’s Crossing is challenging the Island County commissioners’ unanimous decision to exclude its request for an expansion of the city’s urban growth area, or UGA, from consideration by the county planning commission this year.

The 250 acres on which Wright’s Crossing wants to build an estimated 1,500 homes over seven or eight years needs to be annexed into the city to be able to build at the necessary density. Before it can be annexed, it has to be within the city’s UGA.

The commissioners decided that a buildable lands analysis completed by county staff shows that an expansion of the UGA isn’t needed.

Wright’s Crossing developers disagree, arguing that the county is obliged to docket the UGA issue because of recent increases in employment on the island.

Thompson argued that the development would help with the area’s affordable housing problems because most of the houses will likely cost from $200,000 to $300,000.

Thompson’s attorney, Chris Skinner, said the developer isn’t asking the city to approve the project but to argue for the process and discussion to continue.

Thompson called the commissioners’ decision to exclude the UGA request from the docket “arbitrary and capricious” and “obstructionist decision-making.”

“By refusing to docket, the county made a decision without making a decision,” he said.

Wright’s Crossing also filed a lawsuit against the county in Skagit County Superior Court, but that is a separate matter, Skinner said.

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