Port district seeks partnership and parking easement from school district

The Port of South Whidbey is seeking partners for an affordable housing project.

The Port of South Whidbey is seeking partners for an affordable housing project.

During a South Whidbey School Board meeting April 27, Port Commissioner Curt Gordon presented the concept of workforce housing on the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds.

The proposed development would be studio or one-bedroom apartments located above brand-new concession stands on the fairgrounds. The project already has support from the city of Langley and Island County.

Gordon asked the school board to join the bandwagon and lend its support. The port district is hoping to put 20 parking stalls on school district property across the alley from the structure.

Board Member Brook Willeford said the board could discuss the topic at a future workshop meeting.

Gordon pointed to affordable housing as a way to keep enrollment numbers up in the school district.

“Everything takes forever to get going. If none of us have a little bit of a dream and a little bit of future thought, nothing will ever happen,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of discussion about affordable housing and really, nobody’s doing anything about it.”

Board Member Joe Greenheron questioned what would happen to the project if the easement wasn’t granted.

Gordon responded that while he hasn’t “dug deep” on where else 20 cars would be parked, it ultimately wouldn’t kill the project.

“This just makes the most sense and it would be the most appealing,” he said.

South Whidbey School District Superintendent Jo Moccia asked why the port district would want renters to park on school district land and not on the fairgrounds.

Gordon said the idea is for the apartments to be accessible outside of what may be happening on the fairgrounds.

“We’re able to use fairgrounds property, we’re able to rebuild our concessions facility and provide housing and they’ll be able to walk out and get to their car and leave without ever getting inside the facility if we have some other kind of event going on,” he said.

If it turns out to be a matter of a loss of revenue, he encouraged the board to have that conversation with the port district.

“This could work for everybody,” he said. “But we have to be willing partners.”