Council may weigh in on Wrights Crossing

Members of the Oak Harbor City Council may soon get a chance to formally express their views on a large affordable-housing development proposed south of town.

Mayor Bob Severns said council members will be presented with a resolution in support of the Wrights Crossing proposal for a development of 1,000 to 1,500 homes.

The resolution, if passed, may assuage a concern from Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson but, at the same time, it may not do anything to remove the regulatory barriers in the way of the project.

During an interview Wednesday, Johnson said she is frustrated that she hasn’t heard anything about the project from the council except for Councilman Joel Servatius, who publicly supports it.

“The council is doing a very good job pushing for what it wants without owning it,” she said. “If they think this is what’s best for the community, come out and say so.”

Severns said on Thursday he hopes to present the council with the resolution during the next council meeting.

Severns said he supports the project and instructed his staff not to put any roadblocks in front of it.

Severns said he sees the development as part of the solution to the island’s affordable housing crisis.

Still, Johnson said nobody is getting a special favor and that the developer’s timeline for the project is unrealistic.

The property has to be in Oak Harbor’s urban growth area, or UGA, in order to be annexed into the city. The property is currently in the county and has zoning attached that doesn’t allow for the housing density the developer is proposing.

“I don’t see any applicant getting into the urban growth area without a challenge before 2022 or 2023,” she said.

Before a property can be considered for the UGA, it has to be in an Joint Planning Area, or JPA. Planning staff from Island County and the city have been discussing the larger JPA issue for months; a discussion of JPA boundaries is on the county planning commission’s docket this year.

Oak Harbor planning staff submitted two maps to Island County for proposed expansions of the JPA. Both of the proposals would include the Wrights Crossing property.

Oak Harbor Development Services Director Steve Powers said the proposed maps weren’t done to accommodate Wrights Crossing, but that the city has long identified south of the city as the area where the city should grow.

The Wrights Crossing limited liability corporation submitted an application to the county for a proposed expansion of Oak Harbor’s urban growth area, or UGA, to get onto the Island County Planning Commission’s docket — a necessary step.

City planners submitted noncommittal comments on the proposal. Powers said planners would need more information and analysis before they could make any recommendations.

“It’s just too early for us,” he said.

The Island County Planning Commission discussed the Wrights Crossing application during a workshop Monday but took no action. Beckye Frey, senior long-range planner, spent much of the meeting discussing the complicated regulatory process the Wrights Crossing application faces.

The planning commission is scheduled to make a decision about whether to recommend accepting the Wrights Crossing application in their docket during the Sept. 25 meeting.

The Island County commissioner make the final decision.

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