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Simpson: Tiny homes at Friday Harbor airport not advisable

  • Written by Steve Simpson

Editor,

The overall mission of our Port District is to improve the quality of life for its residents and to assist and improve the island economy. A Port’s general plan or as it is called in state law RCW 53.20.10 the “ comprehensive scheme of harbor improvements” describing the planned improvements is required before any Port District project is initiated and after public hearings and adoption by the Port Commission.

Because of this I was surprised to read the Port is allowing a tiny home village to be built at the airport. The airport master plan doesn’t mention this use and instead discourages residential uses at the airport. Transient and temporary housing would appear to me to add another tourist oriented facility to our island that is saturated already with tourism during the summer months. Whatever jobs might come from transient facility housekeeping are unlikely to offer island living wages and would likely be seasonal at that.

Encouraging more people to visit the island especially during the summer does not add to the quality of island life. Already it is difficult to get ferry reservations, our town is difficult to drive through and bicycles, mopeds and scooters slow traffic on our narrow roads. I enjoy tourists and enjoy being a tourist however every tourist destination has a carrying capacity which when exceeded diminishes the quality for residents and tourists. I believe we have reached that point during the summer season.

If the purpose of a tiny house village is for transient workers that makes it easier for off island business to compete with local business. This discourages new business from forming and discourages existing businesses from expanding.

All things considered I think it is inadvisable for our Port District to support transient resident development at our airport. We spent years and millions of dollars to move residential use away from the airport. Previously airports general plans designated land that could not be used for aviation purposes to be leased for light manufacturing, business and other non-residential uses. The Federal Aviation Administration approved those uses for a while, then later told the Port it could not lease airport property for non-aviation purposes and then recently it appears it reversed itself again.

Although the Federal Aviation Administration might now allow hotel and temporary housing on airports built with grant funds it doesn’t make it a good idea for our island. Land is our most precious asset and to tie it up in uses that don’t significantly contribute to the island economy or to islanders’ well being is a waste of that asset. I believe we should encourage the Port Commissioners to not approve additional temporary tiny house uses at our airport.

Steve Simpson