It was encouraging to read guest columns like those of Clark Cundy’s, treating airport matters in a common sense way. So I felt I had to comment on the pressing matter of affordable housing on Orcas and I don’t think that we need the tortuous support of the Federal Government to accomplish this.
Some 15 years ago our port commissioners accepted easy FAA money to purchase and put out of existence 10 acres of desirable commercial/residential property for $850,000. This land still remains vacant – except for the recently vacated and useful dog park. I was thinking that if we used that land for affordable housing – which would probably support at least 20 houses and a dormitory or two for summer employees and put on hold the hundreds of thousands of dollars we are spending on frivolous sidewalks for Eastsound and diverting those funds for the infrastructure of water, sewer and electricity for the project, we might have a real chance for some homegrown solution.
Structured right, I do believe that local citizens and businesses would invest in such a project and willing Island contractors to build.
Obviously, there are some caveats in that Senator Cantwell would find a way to transfer the vacant land, or at least some of it for the purpose of affordable housing. The County could forego, at least temporarily, the “walking” of Eastsound. Another factor to make housing affordable in Eastsound would be to mitigate the onerous connection and membership costs of water and sewer. Presently a 700 square foot house pays the same for these services as a 4,000 square foot residence. Property taxes might also be mitigated for those occupants that were employed on Orcas.
I think we should hear from the council on this and perhaps our partial resident, Oprah, or her representatives, who might have some ideas on this, based on her experience in promoting affordable housing. Years ago we had monthly town hall meetings at the center attended by the county council members. The issues were current and well attended. When we had a moderator, like Penny Sharp, to guide us, the meetings went smoothly and were productive.
Many of us moved to these islands in our desire for smaller communities than those we came from. Friends were easily made and many contentious issues resolved. I don’t want to dwell on the good ol’ days (my wife says it shows your age) but some of them had lots of merit. Today affordable housing on expensive real estate is highly unlikely without leadership and vision. Our workers, on whom we depend upon for so much, need the dignity of housing and the joy of being an integral part of our community.