Editorial: Let's end the Dillard dispute

The 30-plus residents of Dillard’s Addition, the small housing development on Oak Harbor’s waterfront, have a right to be furious. In a controversy that has raged most of this year, the residents discovered after-the-fact that the city had allowed a developer to put in a sewer system to which they would all have to hook up, costing each homeowner thousands of dollars.

As the story played out, we watched as the residents battled to obtain the city records needed to show how this public relations disaster got its start, and then as a committee to study their concerns was reconstituted on a mayoral whim. The residents were even rebuffed when they tried to electronically record meetings with city staff, as is their right.

The city, however, has tried to make amends in recent months. It purchased the sewer pipe the developer put in for $125,000, and isn’t forcing residents to hook up immediately. That’s a pretty good deal if your septic system fails or state regulations require abandonment of septic systems in sensitive areas. The city also is attempting to improve regulations so such a communications snafu never happens again, and they’re writing an ordinance to clarify the responsibilities regarding such “grinder pump” sewer systems, which apparently are cheaper for developers but costlier for homeowners.

Meanwhile, the possibility of litigation brought by the disgruntled residents still looms. While understandably tempting, this avenue should be resisted. Both sides will end up paying thousands of dollars in legal costs and the outcome is uncertain. The City Council has made a good faith effort to address the concerns of Dillard’s residents and the two parties aren’t that far from an agreement if they negotiate calmly.

For the sake of community peace and fiscal sanity, Dillard’s residents should find some forgiveness in their souls and city officials should apologize, on the record, for their miscommunication. A new administration takes over in January and shouldn’t be saddled with the last one’s mistakes.

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