Church project near Navy base faces development restrictions

Leaders at a church are asking the city of Oak Harbor for a zoning amendment to allow construction of a new community center on the north end of the city.

The project, however, may be hindered by development restrictions related to the proximity of the project to the flight path of aircraft from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

At a workshop lats week, Senior Planner Cac Kamak briefed city council members on the proposed project and asked for preliminary feedback. He explained that the application is for a text amendment to allow public assembly, recreation center, auditorium and churches as conditional uses in the “C-4, highway commercial district” zone.

The property in question is 12.5 acres with frontage on both Highway 20 and Northeast Regatta Drive. Living Faith Christian Center is proposing to establish New Hope Community Center as a nonprofit facility that will serve as a multi-generational hub of activities and assist in meeting multi-generational needs of the city.

Construction of a future home of the church on the site is proposed for a second phase.

The problem facing the project is that C-4 zoning restricts people-intensive uses, Kamak explained. In addition, the project would be restricted under noise attenuation standards recommended by a Navy study and adopted by the city.

Yet Development Director Steve Powers said the C-4 zone is very small and, from a policy standpoint, it might make sense to allow the assembly of people on the property. He also pointed out that the state’s new energy efficiency rules mean that new buildings would also have significant noise reduction.

Councilwoman Beth Munns, on the other hand, pointed out that accident potential zones, or APZs, were near the property. An APZ is the area off the end of a runway where aircraft crashes are most likely to occur.

“Heaven help us, but that’s the reason why we’re not allowing daycares and churches and all of that in there,” she said.

Munns added that the Navy is going to update the Air Installation Compatibility Use Zones, which sets recommended restrictions on development, and she questioned whether they are going to change the noise contours and accident zones.

Councilman Jeffrey Mack said it was important for the city to respect the Navy’s zoning recommendations as part of being better partners.

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