WEAN celebrates Oak Harbor move

A Whidbey Island environmental group is claiming that the city of Oak Harbor has abandoned the main issue in an appeal of Island County commissioners’ decision regarding residential growth.

The appeal concerns the city’s attempt to bring 180 acres, including part of the historic Fakkema farm east of Oak Harbor, into city limits to accommodate 20 years of projected population growth.

After a five-year delay, the county commissioners last year rejected the city’s request to expand the urban growth area, allowing only 18 commercially zoned acres into the UGA.

Property must first be placed in the UGA before being annexed into the city, so the action hinders the city officials’ plans to expand city boundaries for residential development.

City officials appealed the county’s decision to the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, but lost on all 16 issues presented.

The City Council voted this year to appeal to Thurston County Superior Court. The Whidbey Environmental Action Network, a South Whidbey group known as WEAN, is an intervenor in the lawsuit, arguing on the county’s side.

WEAN released a press release last Friday announcing that the city has now abandoned its legal claim that the county must grant “deference” to the city, even though the Growth Management Act grants the authority of determining UGA boundaries to the county.

WEAN notes that the city’s new attorney didn’t mention the deference issue or the previous challenge to WEAN’s status in the litigation, effectively abandoning both issues.

“The city will not be permitted to raise either of these issues again,” WEAN member Steve Erickson said in a press release. “We’re glad the city has finally decided to stop wasting taxpayers’ money by raising legal issues that have no basis in law.”

Erickson argued against the city’s claim of deference before the hearings board.

Margery Hite, the former city attorney, originally handled the appeal, but she and the subsequent city attorney, Bill Hawkins, have both been fired. The city has contracted with another attorney to handle the appeal.


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