Exxon building permit still weeks away

"It will be at least five weeks before developers at the corner of Fish Road and Highway 525 will begin burying huge gas tanks and building a gas station, convenience store, mini-mall, and car wash.For the past two weeks, subcontractors working for Mick Olsen, one of the project developers, have been moving thousands of yards of fill material onto the controversial construction site, preparing it for building. Olsen said Wednesday he and his partners, Gordon Koetje and Terry Otey, are hoping to open the Exxon-brand gas station by mid-summer.But the first buildings on the site will likely not go up for about a six weeks as the partners wait for their building permit to be approved by Island County.We're weeks away on the building permit, Olsen said.Olsen said the 10-pump gas station and related businesses will be a useful addition to the South Whidbey business community. Since successfully defending the project before Island County Hearing Examiner Michael Bobbink last month, the work has progressed better than Olsen expected.It's the best dirtwork job I've done in years, he said.But the project is still controversial among many South Whidbey residents. Since the project's opponent, People for Reasonable, Organized Urban Development (PROUD), lost their December appeal before the Hearing Examiner, the Freeland Exxon has been a target of more than a half dozen demonstrations. Opponents unsuccessfully argued the property is a wetland. On Wednesday, about a dozen South Whidbey women and children gathered on three corners of the Highway 525 and Fish Road intersection to protest the project. They held up huge paper signs proclaiming Stop the Sprawl and Exxon Unfair Process in an effort to call drivers' attention to what they believe is poor development policy. Susan Cyr, one of the protest organizers, said there will be more demonstrations in the future. In addition, said protester Marie Burnett, those opposed to the station's construction are trying to get as many South Whidbey residents as they can to pledge to not patronize the business.The project is scheduled to be complete sometime in July. "

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