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Citizen organization against OLF jet noise spreads to North Whidbey
A message written on the white board summed up the group’s sentiments: “Who helps us? We do!”
Those gathered at the Oak Harbor Library on Nov. 5, also seemed to agree on another statement written on the board: “More planes, more noise, more pollution, more taxes, fewer jobs.”
The open forum, organized by the Concerned Island County Citizens, provided information on jet noise and pollution on tables around the room and a chance for open discussion.
“It’s been tough in the community over the last few years and lots of people have varied opinions on this,” said Shannon Stone, group member and event organizer.
“The amount of time we spend in worry, we’re not planning for our community effectively.”
Stone discouraged the community in thinking that, if they ask for changes, the Navy will leave and destroy Whidbey Island’s economy.
“There’s this looming doom that the Navy’s going to leave,” Stone said.
She acknowledges that it may be tough to ask the Navy to change its tack on squadron placement on Whidbey Island, but that it’s an important question.
“If we don’t ask for change, we will always wonder what’s going to happen,” Stone said. “We have to be passionately involved in our community. I am not anti-Navy. But I am for responsibility. We have to change what we are doing here.”
Besides discussion about asking the Navy to remove the “bad planes” such as the EA-18G Growlers, and ceasing touch-and-go operations at the Outlying Field in Coupeville and moving them to Yakima, residents also blamed the county for poor development planning with their APZ zones.
The APZ ordinance created an overlay zone that limits encroachment on the Navy base by restricting development in the accident potential zone, which is a racetrack-shaped area around the base where aircraft take off and circle.
For property within an APZ zone, the ordinance sets restrictions on subdivisions and on uses. In attendance to the event was Garrett Newkirk, a long-time vocal opponent of the county’s APZ zone.
Some North Whidbey residents who live within the zone, including Newkirk, said they are upset about restrictions on their property.
“All that attended the meeting were like we are: concerned for the future health and viability of our part of the globe,” Newkirk said. “The amount of aircraft the base is planning on bringing to this area is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Newkirk claimed health effects from the byproduct of the jets are documented, and put “civilians at risk of a catastrophic event.”
“We believe working with the community we can bring about positive change in our environment and the safety of the pilots.”
Members of the Coupeville-based Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve, Paula Spina and Michael Monson, shared concerns with the citizen group.
When asked to respond to the turnout and content of the North Whidbey meeting, the group issued the following statement via an email from Spina.
“The folks organizing Concerned Island Citizens are clearly concerned about the health and economic impacts of the Navy’s continuing to expand the number and types of jet aircraft that fly over the populated areas of Island County as well as surrounding areas.”