Wright’s Crossing appeals to state board

A developer who wants to build a large-scale development south of Oak Harbor is taking a couple of different legal tacts in an attempt to get the project past a regulatory roadblock.

On Dec. 27, the attorney representing Wright’s Crossing LLC and its owner and manager, Scott Thompson, submitted a petition for review to the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board that claims Island County commissioners were “illegally stalling” the project.

On Nov. 28, Wright’s Crossing and Thompson also filed a writ of review in Skagit County Superior Court. The developer wants a judge to compel the county to move forward with an analysis of the amount of buildable lands in Oak Harbor and, ultimately, the expansion of the urban growth area, or UGA.

The Growth Management Hearings Board was set up under the state’s Growth Management Act, or GMA, to hear growth- and development-related disputes. The boards hear allegations that a city, county or state agency has not complied with the goals and requirements of the GMA, provisions of the Shoreline Management Act or the state Environmental Policy Act, according to the hearings board’s website.

The petition for review alleges violations of the Growth Management Act and the county’s own policies. It asks for the appointment of an expert to help the board understand the “deficiencies.”

Wright’s Crossing is envisioned as a development of 1,000 to 1,500 homes on 288 acres south of Oak Harbor. The land has to be annexed into the city to be developed at the necessary density. But for that to happen, several other steps have to take place on the county level.

The project was delayed for at least a year when the commissioners decided not to place the proposed UGA expansion and updated buildable lands analysis on the planning commission’s docket for 2018.

Much of the argument in the petition revolves around a lack of affordable housing on Whidbey Island. Wright’s Crossing presents itself as a solution to the problem.

“The homes would be modestly priced with a percentage offered as ‘affordable housing,’” the document states.

The petition of review argues that the county is relying on an outdated and inadequate buildable lands analysis; the county’s analysis finds that there’s enough vacant land in the existing UGA for 20 years of development.

The developer claims that the county’s analysis doesn’t take into account the latest projected increases of personnel at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The document claims that “in the next 20 years, 8,600 military personnel are expected to come to the Whidbey NAS,” which is contrary to projections from the base.

Mike Welding, public affairs officer at NAS Whidbey, said the base currently has 8,250 military personnel and an increase to 8,600 is expected in the future.

Wright’s Crossing is asking the hearings board to direct the county to consider the UGA expansion proposal this year and to make a decision in the related joint planning area alteration.

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