After two years of planning, designing and permitting, a rare new development on the north beach of Camano Island is under construction, with four townhouses and a separate building for a future market with a second-story studio apartment.
Island County restrictions and zoning make it difficult to build in many areas of the island west of Stanwood, but the architect, Designs Northwest Architects in Stanwood, and Stanwood contractor Richard Nord of RGN Construction saw an opportunity — and a responsibility.
The opportunity was development of a prime site overlooking Utsalady Bay, with views of Whidbey Island and northward to Canada, land where the decades-old Utsalady Store was a popular shopping area until it closed several years ago. The responsibility was to create an enclave of housing and, hopefully, a new store in a Northwest island motif that would blend into the area’s waterfront environment.
“We wanted to make it a development Stanwood and Camano Island residents would be proud of,” said Dan Nelson of Designs Northwest. “There are only a couple of other markets, a gas station and a commercial plaza elsewhere on the island, and this will be the only residential and commercial development of its kind at the north end.”
The Built Green construction design will provide two-story, shake-sided buildings with low-energy needs due in part to high-efficiency gas furnaces. The landscaping, compatible with the nearby beach and wetlands environment, was designed for low-maintenance, with plants and fragrance foliage that doesn’t require special fertilizers or irrigation.
“This project is a big deal for us. We wanted to create something acceptable to the local community but also marketable. We spent a lot of time with county authorities to make this all work out for everyone,” said Nord. “Even though people knew there wouldn’t be more construction coming to that area, they were concerned we would use the site for huge megahomes. We could have built more homes on the site, but that wouldn’t have been right for that location.”
The 1,800-square-foot townhouses, expected to sell for around $600,000, already have potential buyers, and there’s a waiting list in case any openings come up later, Nelson said.
“Right now, we’re still looking for the right commercial tenant for the 960-square-foot store. Hopefully, a delicatessen and market will be developed to continue the historic services of the site. Two of the potential buyers used to play in the nearby pond and catch frogs there as kids, and they remember going to the old store for groceries, drinks and hamburgers, along with a walk on the beach,” Nelson said.
He said the 730-square-foot studio apartment above the commercial space has a kitchen, eating area, bedroom, bathroom and Puget Sound views, making it “ideal for an artist or for the owners of the store.”