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Greenbank easement slowly advances

After months of work, it appears an easement to benefit the Greenbank Farm is moving forward.

The Port of Coupeville is reviewing a draft easement it received from Island County that will further protect the agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands that comprise the majority of the Greenbank Farm.

“I don’t see anything yet that seems to be a problem,” Jim Patton, port executive director, said Monday morning. He said the three-member board of commissioners could approve the document, negotiate changes with Island County, or drop the matter entirely. He hopes to present the draft easement to the commissioners during their June 8 meeting at Coupeville Public Library.

The port is seeking the conservation easement for the farm so it can receive $400,000 in Conservation Futures funds from Island County. That money would be dispersed over the next eight years. The easement will protect farm land while providing funding for the financially challenged port.

The Port of Coupeville is paying $100,000 annually in bonds to pay off the farm, which it helped  purchase in 1997. Over the years, the steep payments have eaten away at the port’s reserves until they were exhausted, leaving commissioners  struggling to pay for emergency maintenance projects. The bonds are scheduled to be paid off in 2017.

Port leaders had expressed concern over what seemed to be a lack of progress on the easement request to the county.

Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said recently it’s taken time to hash out an acceptable easement because of limited staff available to deal with the easement.

“There are a lot of intricacies that exist in this property that don’t exist in other transactions,” Price Johnson said.

There is only one staff member able to work on Conservation Futures programs in addition to his other duties, which include coordinating the board of equalization and the public defender’s office, Price Johnson said.

She said the easement will have to be worked out so the document won’t violate the special review district zoning and the comprehensive plans that cover the farm.

Patton said an appraisal still needs to be done on the property before the process moves forward.

Price Johnson said more talks between the county and the port also have to take place to better spell out what will be purchased with the conservation easement.

She wouldn’t speculate when the negotiations with the port would be complete.

“We want to make sure we do it right rather than swift,” Price Johnson said.

 

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