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Big boxes: Develop based on our uniqueness
Do we need to destroy the last remaining undeveloped spaces in Oak Harbor to improve our economic base? No! There is a legitimate need to increase the sales tax base in Oak Harbor. Yet, we dont want our town to become another Aurora Avenue Seattle.
In the long run, the cost of losing more of our natural vegetation is too high. (See: Ecological Economics by Joshua Farley). Capitalizing on our towns uniqueness is the real key to improving our economic tax base, and to safeguarding the things visitors/tourists come here from large cities to find.
In the long run, we can create a healthier, sustainable tax base by creating more business opportunities in keeping with our uniqueness. Consider the question: What makes Oak Harbor different from anyplace else, an attractive city for both us and visitors? For me it is the Dutch and Irish influence of our settlers, rich native heritage, current cultural diversity, presence of the Navy, and proximity to Puget Sound waters, beaches, and natural landscapes. These things are of great value, not only to us, but to many who come here, and to the coming generations.
Within our city limits we have rare Garry oak habitat, special wildflowers, and a diversity of birds that you no longer see in the larger cities. These are becoming more rare and thus more valuable all the time.
Rather than putting a focus on economic development based on bringing in generic businesses found everywhere in the USA, lets capitalize on what is unique about Oak Harbor and this region and build on this. Recently some local businesses have done just that, creating buildings and selling products in harmony with existing surroundings, adding to the uniqueness, charm and the character of our town.
Solvang, Calif. is one example of a town that successfully capitalized on uniqueness by using a unifying Danish theme throughout the town. This theme draws people from all over the country and brings prosperity. We as an evolving city have a choice. When the words Oak Harbor are spoken, what will be the lasting memory of our town?