Examiner to hear sculpture project

The Oak Harbor Hearing Examiner is holding a hearing next week to decide whether to approve permits.

The Oak Harbor Hearing Examiner is holding a hearing next week to decide whether to approve permits that would allow the city to install a large metal sculpture in a waterfront park.

Earlier this year, the Oak Harbor City Council approved a plan to install the Angel de la Creatividad art piece in Flintstone Park on Bayshore Drive. The city staff submitted an application to the hearing examiner for a conditional use permit, a site plan review, a shoreline development permit and a shoreline variance.

The hearing will be 11 a.m. on Aug. 29 in council chambers in City Hall. The public is welcome to attend and comment at the open public hearing.

The main issue the hearing examiner will consider is whether the sculpture can be taller that the established height limit. The sculpture will stand 37 feet tall and look out over the water, welcoming incoming boats. The height limit for structures in the public facilities zone is 35 feet, but the application explains that city code allows structures deemed to be of “cultural or historical significance” to exceed the height limit under conditional use permit standards.

The abstract angel sculpture was created by renowned Mexican artist Sebastian. It’s an abstract figure of an angel atop a column, according to the city application. The piece was owned by the estate of a public art supporter and was gifted to the city with assistance from the nonprofit group Sculpture Northwest.

Plans for the sculpture spurred a community debate for two years about whether it should be accepted and where it should be placed. The application notes that the review by the hearing examiner will not consider the artistic merit of the piece.

“Some comments from previous public meetings, social media posts and other forums have referenced the appearance of the artwork, which is not germane to this application,” the report states.

The application explains that the location will subject the artwork to wind and water. The park was created with fill material from long-ago dredging, so setting the base will require “specific structural calculations and construction methods,” the application states. A consulting firm is providing engineering plans for the base structure.

The application includes written comments from a few people concerned about the siting of the sculpture. The residents contend that the section of Bayshore Drive is in poor condition and that an irrigation leak has been ongoing for a long time. They argue that the city should prioritize maintenance.