Finally, a real public benefit

Most Oak Harbor expansion projects are justified by arguing that they benefit the public. Many people have wondered about such reasoning, but the city’s most recent proposal is much more understandable.

The city is proposing spending $225,000 for a short road paralleling Highway 20, behind Whidbey Island Bank to Beeksma Drive. This would provide more space to build businesses and draw at least some traffic away from the busy highway. But the clear public benefit isn’t realized until we are told the impetus behind this road building project: A burger and brew joint called Bob’s Burgers wants to move in, but can’t afford the road project without city help.

Finally, a direct benefit the public can understand! The benefit of more businesses and another road are debatable. Generally, it just means more cars on the road to compete with. But a new place to purchase a juicy burger and mug of beer? Sounds great, let’s go for it.

Small breweries are popping up all over the Northwest, usually in conjunction with food sales. Such a place called Flyers debuted its home-brews last week in Oak Harbor. Bob’s will give Whidbey Islanders another choice in locally brewed beers.

Even teetotalers should have sympathy for small breweries, who are seeking a niche in a beer-making industry dominated by giants that can afford to advertise during the Super Bowl. The country needs more choices in everything, and entrepreneurs are carving out a place in the beer industry by offering their own quality, imaginative brews.

Oak Harbor’s proposed road project to the restaurant makes sense, either from the old “better for business” point of view, or just because it will help bring another good restaurant and brewery to town.

City leaders might consider making breweries part of all future proposals. Allow breweries in Accident Potential Zones and watch the controversy disappear. Next time someone wants to annex rural land into the city, make them promise to build a brewery. When you lure that next big-box store to town, tell them we want a brewery inside, not a Subway. People will always support a distinct public benefit such as a brewery.

We can even develop a new city motto from this theme: “Oak Harbor, the city with a good head on its shoulders.” We

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