Lots Of Land

Do you want a little or a lot? Do you want a little lot that’s easy to take care of, or do you want a big lot with lots of room to roam? Whidbey Island has both, but not as much in between as many expect.

Whidbey is mostly rural, and the County is trying to keep it that way.

Island County has three special tax programs: Designated Forest, Open Agriculture, and the Public Benefit Rating System (PBRS). These programs are intended to retain resource and agricultural land by providing incentives to land owners to not subdivide or convert property to more intense, or other uses.” – Island County 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update

Whidbey also has a few places with typical city densities, well, typical small city densities. Don’t expect to find Seattle-style condo towers on the island. They’d get a great view, but the jets might not appreciate buildings getting in their way. Oak Harbor has the majority of the population, but not the majority of the land.Screenshot 2017-11-27 at 16.09.46

The majority of the land is rural, not just farms, but forests, nature reserves, parks, and a few inevitable gravel pits. (Hey, paved roads have to be built from something, you know.)

The island is close enough to the metropolis on the mainland that urban sprawl could readily redefine the land. There are limits to that sprawl, though. Some are cultural. The people of the county like a less crowded space, even in the cities. Some are infrastructure. There are limits to water and septic capacities.

The odd consequence is that the lots for sale are more likely to be little (less than a half an acre) or large (more than three acres). Want a couple of acres? They can be tougher to find.


Since 1984, the minimum lot size has been five acre for new development in rural areas, much of the County was subdivided into much smaller parcels prior to 1984” – Island County 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update

The graph shows the data for three acres or more, but that’s a number the software picked. The real discriminator is probably at five acres. Keep in mind, these aren’t vacant lots. That’s another story, though similar. The data are for houses.

a pattern of 1 and 2.5 acre lots is an urban land use pattern that constitutes sprawl, both inside and outside of a UGA. Lots of this size are generally prohibited as a residential development pattern in rural and urban areas.” – Island County 2016 Comprehensive Plan Update

(UGA is an Urban Growth Area)

Until recently, the biggest block of listings was for houses on small lots, frequently along the shore where neighbors share the sand. Now, the biggest block is for the bigger lots. The number of houses for sale is down in all lot sizes (that’s part of the Is Whidbey Changing story, which will be updated in a few months), but folks who want something between a half an acre and three acres have the fewest to pick from.

It’s almost as if the island is designed for people with either boats or horses, not for big lawns.

If you want something small or something large, you might be looking in the right place. If you want something in the middle, it might be available, but it also may make sense to see what you can slide into, or think a bit more expansive. It’s all good.

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