Goosefoot explores possibility of workforce housing in Bayview

— Created April 6, 2021 by Kacie Jo Voeller

By Kacie Jo Voeller

Workforce housing has long been a need on Whidbey Island, as indicated by a 2018 Island County housing needs study and a resident and business survey from 2019. Goosefoot Community Fund has expressed an interest in helping address the shortage of workforce housing in the area and created the Bayview Vision Steering Group to explore the feasibility of developing in Bayview.

Sandra Whiting, executive director of Goosefoot Community Fund, said the organization has always worked to support the community, including through its involvement in the Goose Community Grocer, assistance to local nonprofits, and other efforts to encourage a thriving South Whidbey. 

“Our mission is about building community and it is about supporting our local economy and trying to preserve the rural character of the place,” she said.

Chris Salomone, vice president of Goosefoot’s board, said the area under consideration is a possibility due to its current zoning, as it is one of only four Rural Areas of Intense Development (RAID) that would allow multi-family and mixed-use housing to be built in the area.

“The reason it (workforce housing) is scarce on the island is there are few places that it can in fact be built because of the zoning and because of the state of Washington Growth Management Act,” he said. “Most of the island is for single-family homes, the majority of it, or in the urban-growth areas like Langley and Oak Harbor and Clinton and Freeland, there is a very limited amount of vacant land that can be developed.”

Whiting said the Goosefoot Community Fund, as a major landowner in the Bayview RAID, wanted to explore the possibility of building in Bayview as part of its hope to work with other partners to provide housing for retail, restaurant, and other public service workers who often are unable to live on the island due to rising market costs and low availability.

“Our vision is a thriving South Whidbey,” she said. “You cannot have a thriving South Whidbey if you do not have a place for people to live that work here and be part of the community.”

Salomone said the Bayview Vision Steering Committee has brought in experts to help conduct a feasibility study to determine whether the area will be able to support the type of housing. Salomone said Schemata Workshop will front the master planning group, and will

include consultants from Spectrum Development and civil engineers from MIG. He said the issue had long been discussed, and the group felt it was time to take action to determine if workforce housing would be possible in the designated area.

              “We were in a meeting of that steering group and we just said, ‘If not now, when?’” he said. “‘If not us, who?’ It was just that someone has got to step up and pay for some consultants and get answers to these issues. Because the issues are threshold things that we have to get past. We have to learn, is there the ability to provide infrastructure that would support this housing?”

Whiting said the effort has drawn support from landowners in the Bayview area, including collaborators from the Henny Family and Legacy Family Tree, LLC, and Island Senior Resources (ISR). She said Island County government and WhidbeyHealth have also expressed support for efforts to create affordable workforce housing in the Bayview area.

“We called together the owners of the properties and got them together and started talking about the idea of workforce housing being developed there,” she said. “We got a really positive response, so that is how it got going.”

Salomone said the feasibility will likely not be done until later in the year, but Goosefoot plans to keep the community informed by holding community meetings, one in May and a potential meeting in October, to update the public on findings from the feasibility study. Salomone said community input and addressing questions and concerns will be important to the group moving forward. He said the group is optimistic, but the project is still in its early phases and there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We really want this to be transparent and open and we invite questions and so anyone who has heard rumors or wants to know more, they can contact Goosefoot,” he said.

              Whiting said one of the key ideas behind this effort is to thoughtfully and responsibly consider further development in South Whidbey.

              “We all love where we live and we love what is here and we want to preserve that,” she said. “And if it is going to change, we would like to be involved in that change in a positive way.”

              More information and updates can be found on Goosefoot’s Facebook page and website, Goosefoot representatives can be contacted by emailing or calling 360-321-4145.