Letter: Fairgrounds is not right for housing


My name is Steven Myres, and I am a retired professional with over 50 years of experience in the construction industry, with a significant portion of that time spent as an electrical contractor and general contractor, having successfully bid, managed and negotiated multi-million-dollar contracts annually throughout Western Washington, including the major hubs in Alaska.

In my three decades as an electrical and general contractor, I navigated the intricacies of contract language, zoning regulations, and fire and building codes in various jurisdictions. This experience taught me that an in-depth knowledge of local regulations is paramount in ensuring the success and compliance of construction projects.

The following is an open letter I sent to the Island County Commissioners concerning housing grant funding to the Port of South Whidbey:

I am writing to bring to your attention some significant concerns regarding the recent allocation of two grants totaling $500,000 to the Port District of South Whidbey for housing. The financial summary provided by the Port District as of Aug. 31 identifies Grant 1 for $150,000 and Grant 2 for $350,000.00 and indicates a potential misuse of these funds based on the current zoning regulations and the terms of the interlocal agreement signed in March of 2017.

As you are aware, the property in question, located in the City of Langley, is not zoned for housing. The interlocal agreement, entered into by both the port district and Island County in 2017, explicitly restricts the use of the property, citing RCW 15.76, which does not include housing as permissible use. The voters of South Whidbey, in an advisory election in 2016, approved a tax increase and property transfer from Island County to the port district to provide oversight for ongoing maintenance of the fairgrounds, not a housing project. The housing proposals preliminary design requires the structures to encroach into the midway approximately 15 feet. That leaves about 44 feet remaining of the midway. It is essential to adhere to the legal and contractual obligations outlined in the agreement to ensure responsible and transparent use of public funds.

Considering these findings, I urge you to reconsider the allocation of these funds to the port district and, instead, redirect them to the South Whidbey Homeless Coalition. The coalition, has identified an existing Langley property suitable for a long overdue and needed women’s housing and shelter space. I have personally met with the coalition, reviewed the proposed site and found it to be feasible and capable of addressing immediate needs within our community.

Redirecting the funds to the South Whidbey Homeless Coalition for the purchase of an existing Langley property would have several advantages. First and foremost, the coalition already has a well-established local network and has identified the pressing needs within our community. This project could be implemented swiftly, providing immediate relief to those in need.

On the contrary, the fairground housing project proposed by the Port District is likely to face significant delays due not only to zoning issues but to the intended use by the Fair Association and 4-H. Should housing ever be permitted on this site, it would place a significant and unnecessary financial burden on both programs, essentially ending their existence. It is crucial to prioritize projects that can be implemented efficiently to address the urgent needs of our community.

Pulling these funds from the Port District and redirecting to another area of greater need will allow the port to focus its efforts on completing the maintenance on this property in time for next years Fair.

Steven Myres

South Whidbey