By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
HAT ISLAND — They’re almost done expanding their private marina to the tune of $4 million.
Some people who call Hat Island home predict that the new docks are just the beginning. Big changes are underway for this hideaway in plain sight of the Everett waterfront. They point to a record number of homes on the market, plus a demographic shift acknowledged by the island’s new arrivals and old-timers alike.
“Our biggest problem is getting people over here,” said Charlotte Maulsby, a Realtor who owns a beach house on the south end of the island. “They don’t even know we’re out here.”
A speck in Possession Sound, between Everett and Whidbey Island, Hat Island measures about a mile-and-a-half long by a half-mile wide. Officially known as Gedney Island, few use that name anymore.
Variously exploited as a gravel pit and bombing range during the past century, things changed drastically in the early 1960s. That’s when a group of investors tried to market the island as “Hat Island Riviera.” The venture fizzled out a few years later.
Yet much of the resort vibe remains. Golf carts, crab pots, and Puget Sound views. You get the picture.
Maulsby, an energetic great-grandmother, has lived there part-time for 25 years. She’s trying to sell more people on the idea of buying a second home there — if she can only get them over.
“Whaddya think?” she asked while giving reporters a tour last week. “I told you it’s a little bit of paradise here.”
These days, the Island has about 270 homes.
They’re connected by a network of gravel roads — save for some beach lots with no road access. There’s a nine-hole golf course and a yacht club.
“We have no stores, nothing commercial on the island, a PGA-rated golf course and houses of every description,” Maulsby said.
A homeowners association functions as a de-facto government. Its budget comes from a $475 yearly fee on each of the island’s approximately 980 lots.
That provides about a half-million dollars to pay for trash, roads, marina and a four-day-a-week private ferry.
“It’s like running a small municipality,” said Mike Zyskowski, vice president of the island’s board of directors.
There’s also a volunteer fire department and a reverse-osmosis plant to back up the island’s supply of well water.
A new $4 million renovation to the island’s marina is nearing completion after two years of work. It’s expected to increase the island’s boat traffic.
The enlarged marina has 127 slips, up from 84. They now can accommodate boats of up to 62 feet, compared to 40 before. Members of area yacht clubs with reciprocal agreements can use it for a fee.
About 40 people are thought to live on the island year-round. Snohomish County lists 57 people who have been actively voting from addresses there.
The island is in the midst of a population shift as properties change hands.
As of Monday, 21 homes were on the market — roughly one in 13 — with asking prices of $149,000 to $560,000, Maulsby said. Some undeveloped lots can be had for less than $10,000.
Jon Rypdahl, another island Realtor who works with his wife, Karen, said there are more homes for sale now than at any time during the past 25 years.
“These houses that they’re selling out here for $250,000 would cost you a million dollars anywhere else, with the views,” Rypdahl said. “It just amazes me that more people don’t discover this place.”
The market for vacation homes typically lags the market for primary residences, he explains.
Zyskowski, a 43-year-old whose main home is in Maltby, counts himself among the relative newcomers.
He, his wife, Gina, and now 10-year-old son, Mickey, have had their beach home since 2007.
“Now you’re starting to see more people from Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing having their second homes here,” he said.
Long-timers abound as well.
Bill and Zona Wyatt, of Brier, bought their patch of waterfront on South Beach Drive in 1977, when their three boys were 5 and younger. They pitched a tent.
“There was nothing,” she said.
“Not a house here,” he said.
As they schmoozed with neighbors last week, the Wyatts didn’t seem to mind the cozy beach houses that now fill their street.
“You go from one extreme to the other,” Zona Wyatt said. “You have very wealthy people who are here and you have very blue-collar people.”
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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