If a Port of South Whidbey commissioner has his way, people may someday be living in affordable housing upstairs from funnel cake and hot dog booths.
During a port meeting this past Tuesday, Commissioner Curt Gordon presented an idea that would help bring workforce housing to the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds in Langley.
“It’s become apparent that housing is an economic development factor, and port districts can in fact be involved in building and supplying workforce housing,” he said.
Gordon pointed out that the concession stands, located along the fair midway, are in need of being upgraded. He proposed building a new structure that would have space for one-bedroom or studio apartments located on the upper level of the building.
“Since we have to rebuild that structure down there anyway, why don’t we look at putting some small housing up on top that just faces Langley?” Gordon asked. “We have the sewer, we have connections with city water.”
Gordon’s presentation was accompanied by concept drawings that showed the apartments to be about 500 square feet large. Under the proposal, occupants could access their apartments without entering the fairgrounds.
To accommodate the housing, there may be an overhang of about 12 to 14 feet more for the concession stands than there is right now, Gordon explained. This extra room would allow for some covered seating.
The port district would need to seek an easement from the South Whidbey School District in order to create parking spaces for residents of the apartments.
Decisions still need to be made about how many units would be built and how far down they would go to the other facilities on the fairgrounds. Gordon acknowledged that it might be difficult finding funding for the concession stands, but that grant opportunities might be available for workforce housing in the upper section of the building.
“There’s miles and miles and miles to go before we can get this to a stage where it’s funded, permitted, drawn up,” Gordon said. “But we gotta start somewhere.”
His fellow commissioners, Ed Halloran and Jack Ng, were supportive of the concept.
“I think we can make this happen,” Ng said.
Halloran wondered if the port could get businesses and contractors interested in the plan.
Langley Mayor Scott Chaplin, who was also attending the port meeting, expressed interest in the project.
“Although the city hasn’t seen any specific details yet, the concept is very intriguing, and I am looking forward to discussing the proposal with them,” the mayor said in an email to The Record. “Creating workforce housing is very critical for our area right now.”