Coupeville Town Council unmoved by Big Rock
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
January 27, 2012 · 2:11 PM
The potential sale of Big Rock doesn’t raise any concerns among Coupeville’s leadership.
Even though the South Main Street land the famous hunk of granite, described by geologists as a glacial erratic, sits on is currently for sale, town leaders don’t think the landmark is worthy of being put into public ownership.
“I don’t think there’s a risk of further construction that might affect the rock,” Mayor Nancy Conard said during Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.
When she heard talk that the town should acquire the famous rock, most notably by an editorial published in the Whidbey News-Times, she said she performed “due diligence” and researched the matter.
Big Rock, formerly known as The Rock of Ages, is located behind Coupeville Coffee and Bistro near the elementary school. The stupendous stone sits on the line between two properties, a house and the aptly named Big Rock apartments. It is also located next to a stormwater detention system.
Conard noted the lots are fully developed and no additional construction can take place. She downplayed any future threats to the rock, saying demolishing it would be an expensive project.
It also would be costly if someone wanted to replace the apartments and the rock with something new.
The Big Rock Apartments, which has 24 units, were built in the early 1990s. If a new owner decided to demolish the buildings for new construction, then the project would have to follow current town regulations, which allows only 13 units on the property.
Conard said she talked with Pat Powell, executive director for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, about ways to protect the rock. It was suggested that the town could pursue a conservation easement to prevent any development on the Big Rock. The council met in a closed executive session Tuesday night to discuss the value of such a conservation easement. Secret meetings are allowed to consider property acquisition.
Town council members in the public session were less than enthused about pursuing any matter concerning Big Rock.
“I personally don’t think the town should spend any money to protect the Big Rock,” council member Bob Clay said, adding that the rock has always been in private ownership.
Councilwoman Molly Hughes said she didn’t understand the newspaper editorial.
“I’ve wracked my brain in thinking what kind of benefit the town would get,” Hughes said.
Public ownership of the Big Rock could open another can of worms for the town.
Hughes mentioned that she’s heard from people who would want the ivy covering the Big Rock removed and from others who want it to stay in order to preserve it as a bird habitat.
Newly appointed council member Larry Cort said the risk of something catastrophic happening to Big Rock is minimal.
No members of the public showed up to voice support for protecting Big Rock. Such was not always the case. A few years ago a community group sued the town to prevent construction of a coffee shop in front of the house-sized stone. A judge eventually sided with the town after the building was constructed.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.