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Greenbank Farm easement progresses

After nearly a year of negotiations, work to add more protection to a publicly owned farm may start to move forward.

Leaders from the Port of Coupeville are approaching Island County with a list of development rights that could be surrendered when a conservation easement at the Greenbank Farm is worked out. This comes on the heels of a recent meeting port commissioners held to sort out issues that have stalled talks on the conservation easement.

“I felt like there was a breakthrough, frankly,” said Laura Blankenship, a commissioner for the Port of Coupeville.

Port leaders want a conservation easement placed on the publicly owned farm to add another layer of protection for the agriculture, recreation and environmentally sensitive lands. Development could still be allowed on the farm’s commercial area. Port officials have tried to lobby the state in the past to fund construction of a new food processing facility.

The Board of Island County Commissioners in 2011 earmarked up to $400,000 worth of Conservation Futures Funds for a conservation easement. That money would be dispersed in $50,000 increments for eight years. The award was contingent on an appraisal of the value of the development rights surrendered by the port.

However, talks about the conservation easement stalled as a number of issues arose.

Island County wants a park and ride lot at the farm and wanted that to be worked into the conservation easement. Jim Patton, executive director for the Port of Coupeville, said that a document designed to protect sensitive land shouldn’t include a lot that would appear in the farm’s commercial zone.

Port officials recently expressed concern about the zoning that applies to the farm because the port didn’t receive any compensation for the development rights that the port gave up when the farm was zoned as a special review district in 2002. A special review district basically outlines the development regulations for a property that doesn’t easily fit into any other zoning categories. In addition to the Greenbank Farm, the Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Studies, formerly known as the Au Sable Institute, is the only other property in Island County listed as a Special Review District.

Blankenship said that the conservation easement would include an option for the park and ride lot, which is currently written into the farm’s current special review district. She said the port would be willing to also give up development rights to two strips of land that bookend Wonn Road.

Port commissioners weren’t unanimous in deciding to move forward with the easement. Commissioners Blankenship and Benye Weber want the conservation easement on the farm, while Marshall Bronson was opposed to it.

The Port has budgeted $6,000 to help pay for its share of the appraisal, which has to be ordered by the county.

Once that appraisal is complete, then they will have a dollar amount known so negotiations on the conservation easement can begin. The port spends most of its revenue supporting the farm and has been looking for another funding source.

 

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