The ongoing clash between some Coupeville residents and Whidbey Island Naval Air Station supporters over jet noise is rooted in some very poor county planning decisions starting in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, these decisions now leave a permanent footprint giving little hope that a satisfactory compromise appealing to both sides will ever be reached.
One can thank the several Republican-led Commissions, mandated by the voters of Oak Harbor, for this mess.
Since the 1980s, real estate developers and landowners wishing to cash in on their property pretty much got a rubber stamp of approval.
The past commissions, along with their like-minded planners, didn’t look beyond the fast dollars collected from more people paying property taxes.
This trend continued into the 1990s and further even when many local citizens began voicing their concerns over too much development.
An interesting example occurred in the late 1990s when Fran Abel, a Democrat, ran for commissioner on an environmental platform. Fran soundly won the vote in her own south end District 1 and did well in Camano’s District 3. However, she was defeated by a larger Oak Harbor vote giving her District 1 Republican opponent, who ran a construction business, the nod.
The local bastion of Republican politics itself, Oak Harbor, was transformed from a picturesque small town in the late 1970s to an unattractive morass of strip malls, cheap apartment complexes, fast food joints, and chain stores in no time.
Coincidentally, there were just as many personnel stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station back then as would be later.
Not exempt from this mindset are areas adjacent to the OLF. If one goes to a map program offering a satellite projection of the OLF area, they can easily see how newer structures and streets have encroached in the OLF’s vicinity.
Goodbye noise buffer trees.
Some years later after this trend began; an attempted remedy was initiated in the form of “noise waivers.” This required potential home buyers in the area to acknowledge the jet noise coming from the OLF beforehand.
Unfortunately, this came too late for many people and is also a poor remedy for something that shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place.
These close developments also ignore the potential danger of these aircraft operations. A crash could easily claim more casualties than just an aircrew, but hey, the more tax dollars we can reap, the better!
Now that the damage is done, the notion that people living in the vicinity of the OLF being tolerant of even louder jet noise doesn’t seem likely.
One of the two factions here is going to lose. The sins of poor planning for fast money committed by past Republican-led commissions have left a real mess.
■ Editor’s note: Bob Prasch is former bartender for the Dog House in Langley.