Fairgrounds meeting date change draws Island County commissioner's ire

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson - Record file
Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson
— image credit: Record file

News that the Whidbey Island Area Fair meeting planned for Oak Harbor was postponed did not sit well with one Island County commissioner Monday.

“For the record, I think that’s not okay,” District 2 Commissioner Jill Johnson said.

The issue was raised at the board’s regular Monday meeting after Johnson began to announce the meeting to the public, but was corrected by Commissioner Helen Price Johnson.

“There were significant requests for additional feedback for the South Whidbey group,” Price Johnson said.

The change appeared to catch Johnson by surprise.

“So scratch that, don’t go to the meeting,” Johnson said. “North Whidbey will not have a chance to hear about the fairgrounds until South Whidbey can weigh in … again.”

A steering committee of fair and Island County government officials recently released a strategic plan to fundamentally alter the way the fairgrounds is used at a cost of $10.2 million over 10 years. The proposal would transform the facility and its buildings into the Island Event Center, a move officials hope will add flexibility to the grounds, making it more attractive for varied uses and thereby more economically sustainable.

The Island County Economic Development Council, a project leader, hosted a presentation of plan to the public on South Whidbey Feb. 18. An Oak Harbor meeting was originally scheduled Tuesday, March 11, but was changed to 7 p.m. April 2, at North Whidbey Middle School.

“The steering committee wanted to do additional outreach,” Price Johnson said.

“I think that was my point,” Johnson replied. “South Whidbey needs more feedback before North Whidbey has a chance to weigh in?”

Price Johnson added later that it was fairground building superintendents and 4-H leaders, not the South Whidbey community at large, who requested a chance to give additional feedback.

The initial proposal was presented to the Langley City Council last month, to be followed by open houses around the county.

Under the plan, the 27 existing buildings on the fairgrounds property would be reduced to 12, either through demolition or by consolidation. Historically significant structures, such as the Pole Building, would remain untouched.

The new facility would be managed by a public development authority, and the project paid for with revenue bonds.

The Island County Strategic Plan can be found at Comments about the project can be left through the website’s comment form.


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