Appeals court upholds ruling stopping Oak Harbor affordable housing project

— Created February 24, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Division One of the State Court of Appeals has dealt another blow to a proposed affordable housing project in historic downtown Oak Harbor.

In an unpublished opinion Feb. 8, the state court upheld the 2020 ruling in Island County Superior Court striking down the City of Oak Harbor’s approval allowing Pioneer Way Housing (a division of the Low Income Housing Institute) to build a 50-unit housing complex on Pioneer Way.

The Low Income Housing Institute, which now owns the property on which the building was to be constructed, submitted applications for a site plan review and a boundary line adjustment in Oct., 2018. A hearing examiner held a public hearing in June, 2019 and later recommended the application be approved. The Oak Harbor City Council approved the application and BLA in August, 2019.

However, the Oak Harbor Main Street Association, which had objected to the application from the beginning, appealed the City’s decision and filed a Land Use Petition Act, successfully arguing the project did not meet city code because it was not a true “mixed use” building, but was primarily residential and therefore not allowed in the Central Business District. LIHI appealed the decision to the State Court of Appeals last July.

The three-judge panel affirmed the decision made in Island County Superior Court.

“The City Council’s approval of the Project was based on an erroneous interpretation of [Oak Harbor Municipal Code] 19.20.305(45),” reads the decision. “We affirm the superior court’s decision.”

LIHI Director of Development, Robin Amadon, said the nonprofit had no comment on the ruling at this time.

“We are still considering the matter,” she wrote in an email to Whidbey Weekly.

LIHI specializes in building affordable housing and has developments in several locations across Western Washington, including Oak Harbor.