The Langley City Council has “invited” one of South Whidbey’s most prominent businessmen, one of the owners of Whidbey Telecom, to its November business meeting so he can update the council on plans for two old buildings on Third Street and DeBruyn Avenue.
That’s an interesting approach to addressing the prickly topic of derelict properties/structures, though not one we necessarily disagree with. While pressuring private property owners to develop or improve their holdings can be a slippery slope, in this case the request for an update is warranted.
The two buildings in question, one of which has historical value, have sat shuttered and on blocks for the past nine years. That’s a long time, especially for such a visible property and when it appears the initial agreement was that they’d only be in that state for about 12 months.
One of the buildings was built in 1913 and was the first headquarters of the utility company — an addition was added later, comprising the “second” structure. They’ve played a bit of musical chairs over the decades, moving from their original location downtown on First Street to Camano Avenue near the fairgrounds, and finally to their present location on Third. The tentative plan is to move them again, back to downtown, and turn them into a museum for the 110-year-old company.
It’s a cool idea. And like city leaders, we hope it gets done. Soon. Whidbey Telecom should also consider doing something with its old buildings in Clinton on Highway 525. They also are highly visible properties, and their condition and continued vacancy takes away from the business community’s ongoing efforts at economic revitalization.
Whidbey Telecom and its owners are valued community partners, and we don’t mean to single them out. They certainly cannot and should not be forced to improve their properties. They have the same rights of every other private land owner. But, it’d sure be nice if these highly visible buildings were improved or removed, not just for Whidbey Tel’s sake but for the benefit of the greater Langley and Clinton business communities.