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Island County commissioners delay Crockett Barn decision

Spina decision delayed

Island County commissioners took in lengthy arguments during a quasi-judicial hearing on an appeal of a hearing examiner’s determination Oct. 4, but they put off making a decision for a couple of weeks.

Central Whidbey resident Paula Spina appealed the conditions that hearing examiner Michael Bobbink placed when he approved her site plan review application to use the 1895 Crocket Farm Barn as a “rural event center” under county code.

The main condition she opposes is a limit of 30 event days per year, though events with 50 or fewer attendees don’t count toward the limit. Also, she maintains that a 10 p.m. sunset for events is too early. She contends that the conditions will put the event center out of business; she claims to use the profits from the events to preserve the barn.

“She won’t be able to do the events, she won’t be able to maintain the historic asset for the community,” said Dave Bricklin, Spina’s attorney.

The commissioners also heard from Island County planning staff members, who recommended that Bobbink’s conditions remain intact. Likewise, South Whidbey attorney Douglas Kelly, on behalf of Crockett farm neighbors James Moore and Sue Symons, argued in favor of Bobbink’s decision.

Planning Director Bob Pederson explained that the purpose of the hearing was to determine whether the hearing examiner’s decision is supported by evidence in the record or whether he made an error of law.

Bricklin argued that the Bobbink erred in imposing the conditions because they weren’t supported by any evidence, just “hand-wringing concerns” about possible future impacts. There’s no record, for example, of complaints to law enforcement or the planning department about noise from parties at the barn. He emphasized that it’s within a noise zone with Navy jets flying overhead periodically.

Yet Pederson pointed out that plenty of neighbors wrote letters and spoke at the hearing examiner’s meeting about disruptive noise from past events. Bricklin countered that the complaints were made after Spina applied for the rural event center designation, but nobody felt the problem was important enough to complain before that.

Kelly argued that it’s common sense that there would be noise impacts from events at the barn, especially since Moore and Symons live within the 500-foot separation specified in county code between rural events centers and homes. The code says it can be reduced if impacts are minimized by topography, screening or particular land forms.

“These kinds of activities, by their very nature I submit, generate noise that’s not normal in rural residential neighborhoods,” he said.

The commissioners asked questions, but didn’t give any hints about what they might decide. They are scheduled to render an oral decision Oct. 18 at 11:30 a.m.

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