Officials focus on the economy

Government leaders outlined goals Wednesday to improve local economic development, with focuses on the island’s “gateways,” parking, facility improvements and affordable housing.

Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said at the Council of Governments meeting the county will be looking at ways to improve points of entry to Whidbey Island such as the Clinton corridor, Deception Pass area, Whidbey Air Park and the Coupeville Ferry Terminal.

This work will take place during the update to the economic development element of the county’s comprehensive plan, which won’t begin until updates to the housing and rural lands elements are completed.

Langley Mayor Tim Callison listed a number of priorities that are in the city’s comprehensive plan, including regional dining and entertainment, the diversification of its economy, creation of family-wage jobs, promotion of the arts and access to affordable housing.

John Mishasek, Port of Coupeville commissioner, said the port’s primary concern is the aging Coupeville Wharf. The port will seek a levy lid lift in 2019 to pay for repairs, he said.

“It needs a lot of work,” he said. “… We’re focused on catching up on all the delayed maintenance.”

Everyone present, which also included the mayors of Coupeville and Oak Harbor, county Commissioner Rick Hannold and South Whidbey Port commissioners, agreed affordable housing was linked to economic development.

Price Johnson said although the government entities wouldn’t be the developers, “what we can do is create an environment that’s supportive.”

Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns said the city is in the process of expanding sewer connections to businesses on Goldie Road. Planning and work is underway on a number of improvements to Windjammer Park. He also said the planning department is evaluating hundreds of potential residential units.

Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes said the town’s comprehensive plan is “really old,” and will be updated soon. When it is, she wants to focus on parking, traffic and infrastructure improvements at the community green and boat ramp.

She also said that she hopes the town will start working more closely with the port district on economic development.

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