Oak Harbor councilman ‘embarrassed’ about city permit snafu

A youth sailing club has had trouble constructing a storage shed.

One Oak Harbor City Council member said he was “embarrassed” to be on the council, and for the city as a whole, after a breakdown in communication between a youth sailing club and the city over a storage shed.

The comments came during a city council workshop virtual meeting on Sept. 23, although the incident had happened the month prior.

“I got to say I was frustrated, I was embarrassed, I was embarrassed to be a city council member, and I was embarrassed for our city with the way it had been handled, honestly,” said Councilmember Joel Servatius about the shed shenanigans.

According to Byron Skubi, chairman of the Oak Harbor Youth Sailing board of directors, the club had multiple verbal assurances from the city that the permit they needed to build a storage shed at the marina would be completed in time for their construction date, despite not seeing the actual permit itself.

The club applied in February for the permit. Skubi said club members intended to donate the structure to the city after building it.

When the construction company arrived to build the shed — which Skubi said was quite temporary in nature and could be “built pretty much anywhere” — a city building inspector came and said the construction company didn’t have a city business license, so they had to stop. Materials were already on the ground. Volunteers moved the materials to another area.

Skubi said he was told that he needed to come pay for the permit, and when he went to do so, he learned about another problem involving an easement on the site with the Navy.

Now, Skubi said, it doesn’t look like the shed will be built until the end of November.

“We got fairly frustrated,” Skubi said in a phone interview. “We’re kind of up against a timeline because we don’t have a winter storage place for our boats that is secure. We thought we would have this shed.”

He said the club is waiting for approval from the Navy to go ahead with construction, and he added that Assistant City Attorney Anna Thompson was helpful during the process.

Servatius said he was “baffled” the city hadn’t found a solution faster and thought the issue highlighted what he perceives as a “culture issue” at city hall.

When he asked club members why they had not brought up the issue to the city before, Servatius said, they told him they feared “ruffling feathers” at city hall.

Servatius suggested some sort of financial compensation be found for the club. Two other council members agreed.

In an interview with the News-Times, Skubi said he did not remember any discussion with Servatius regarding “ruffling feathers.”

Servatius called out Mayor Bob Severns, City Administrator Blaine Oborn and Development Services Director David Kuhl for the perceived cultural problems at the city.

When the three were asked about Servatius’s comments, a spokesperson provided a response on the city’s behalf.

Sabrina Combs wrote that both the city and council were appreciative of staff for working to find solutions, but they were also “concerned about the process and impacts to the youth sailing program.”

The prepared statement said that Thompson addressed the process issues with the appropriate parties and that Grant Weed, city attorney, provided information for the sailing club to file a claim for its losses.

“Mayor Severns shares in Councilmember Servatius’s concerns about community members not informing ‘City Hall’ of their concerns and our work as a city to improve the culture between the community and city staff,” the statement said.

Kuhl, the new development services director, addressed the concerns at the meeting.

“We understand that there were some complications earlier with business licensing and research that might have not been complete, but we’re ready to move forward from here, and we think we have solutions to help people get what they want,” he said.

Harbormaster Chris Sublet said staff hopes to present a solution during the Oct. 6 city council meeting.