Letter: Hearing examiner would not provide accountability

Editor,

Oak Harbor City Council should be wary about giving up jurisdiction over building permit matters to a “hearing examiner” who is not accountable to the taxpaying public or to long-term considerations. (Whidbey News-Times, Nov. 23, 2019)

Decisions by these alleged experts are questionable and too easily influenced by $’s from deep pocket sources wanting to make windfall profits at taxpayer’s expense.

That circumstance hasn’t been lost on windfall profit-minded developers eager to bend the rules.

Previous councils with extravagant delusions of self-aggrandizing grandeur no doubt enacted future plans for their benefit into the city code. “Hearing examiners” would be bound to or use them as excuses. But voters can selectively elect council members who will exercise cautious wisdom.

Since water availability issues curtailed developments in Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties, the deep-pocketed developers are turning their attention to our county. But we are an island that can handle only so much. We need to be careful.

The “Taj Mahal” water treatment plant and its secreted cost overrun is a case in point. The Wright’s Crossing fiasco was another.

Our water situation is more fragile than on the mainland. Oak Harbor and the Navy base’s water comes from Anacortes’s Skagit River system. That allotment is unlikely to ever increase because of water right issues and the tribe’s successful lawsuit protecting the river and their salmon harvest treaty rights.

A total of 72 percent of Island County residents get their water from private wells. That’s huge.

What would happen to them if Oak Harbor and the Navy started pumping out the aquifer to meet expanded need? Everyone loses. What if our beloved bridge and its pipeline went out for some reason … like an earthquake?

How much good water is there under our feet? Once gone, it can take years and years to replenish.

We are an island with serious limitations and vulnerabilities. Rural values and low crime rates with lower taxes are worth keeping too.

Let’s not be foolish.

Al Williams

Oak Harbor