Opinion

Ebey's Reserve 'McMansion' fiasco may be good in long run

A closer working relationship is obviously needed between the Island County Planning Department and the Ebey’s Landing Historical Reserve Trust Board.

Due to a paper mishap, the county’s Historic Review Committee inadvertently gave its approval to a building permit for a large house that does not seem to fit the historic nature of the reserve. The error should not have been made in the first place, but when it was it should have been detected by the county, which instead routinely gave its stamp approval to the house. Meanwhile, the innocent homeowner, Ian Jefferds, was caught in the middle, accused by the more critical committee members of forging ahead with building plans that should never have been approved, even though he was oblivious to the mistake. The county granted the actual permit and to the best of Jefferds’ knowledge all of the bureaucratic hoops were cleared.

All of this has unnecessarily caused hard feelings on Central Whidbey. The Jefferds family has contributed much to the community through the years and hardly deserves the notoriety coming from the simple desire to build a new home. A house of 5,000 square feet, including the garage, is not unusual by modern Whidbey Island construction standards. And all parties acknowledge that Jefferds designed the house to minimize its visual impact on the surrounding area. On the other hand, it clearly exceeds the size of neighboring houses in the reserve and might look out of place. Further negotiations would no doubt have ironed out the problems, either through making the house smaller or making it even less visible. But once the building permit was granted, Jefferds had no obligation to continue discussing the matter.

The outcome of this does not have to be bad. Jefferds will get his new house which in itself is unlikely to greatly damage the nature of the reserve. And the fiasco has already prompted Island County and the Reserve Trust Board to improve communications. In the future, the county should not depend on just paperwork to make decisions. All projects in the reserve should be approved only after representatives of the county, the Historic Review Committee and trust board have discussed them face to face.

The entire issue may be beneficial in the long run. For years the reserve has been losing its charm along its borders as growth takes place with little regard given to its special nature. A renewed effort to protect the reserve is needed, and the building permit controversy may have provided the impetus to get all parties moving on the matter.

Grads enjoy many choices

Oak Harbor and Coupeville high schools have bid adieu to their classes of 2008, and approximately 400 new graduates are now starting an exciting new phase of their lives.

This quickly brings us to the topic of what a great country these young people are blessed to live in. Think of the opportunities: the military, college, trade school, work force, or just bumming around for a while. And within these choices are scores of sub-choices: Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard; private college, public college, junior college, religious college; the hospitality industry, manufacturing industry, the real estate industry, communications industry, natural resources industries; bumming around Whidbey Island, California, Hawaii or Texas ... the list is literally endless. The fact is that opportunities in the U.S. are limited only by one’s desire and creativity. Your family background, financial status and personal connections may help, but lack of any or all can be overcome with a little hard work. You have a chance to become President of the United States, whether your father was an admiral or an African villager.

There is not another country in the world where young people have so many opportunities. It can be dizzying, confusing, frustrating and stressful making it on your own, but you get to create your own life. What could be better?

Congratulations to Whidbey Island’s 2008 graduates. We hope you appreciate all the opportunities awaiting you. Billions of others around the world would love to be in your place.

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