Years of work to add another layer of protection to the Greenbank Farm came to fruition this week.
The Board of Island County Commissioners Monday approved a $335,000 conservation easement for the agriculture, recreational and environmentally sensitive land located at the publicly owned farm. The easement is funded by Conservation Futures Funds awarded by the commissioners in 2011.
Pat Powell, executive director for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, said the Greenbank Farm is an important part of Whidbey heritage and the easement still provides enough flexibility to keep the farm’s commercial core economically viable.
“The farm will always be kept intact and still have a pastoral landscape,” Powell said. The Whidbey Camano Land Trust helped facilitate negotiations between the county and the port.
The Monday approval came as a surprise to leaders of the Port of Coupeville, who said they were expecting the deliberations would continue almost to the end of the year. The Port of Coupeville owns the Greenbank Farm.
“I’m just really pleased,” port Commissioner Benye Weber said of the approved easement. “That’s been one of the reasons why I ran for a second term.”
County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said that staff was prepared for the documents from the Port of Coupeville and there wasn’t any controversy in approving the most recent easement. The county commissioners unanimously approved the decision.
The Port of Coupeville also agreed to surrender the development rights to 7 acres of commercial land located on either side of Wonn Road. While preventing commercial development on those two rectangular strips of property, an option was written into the easement that allows construction of a park and ride lot.
The conservation easement will be a boon to the Port of Coupeville, which has had to defer maintenance on projects at the Greenbank Farm and the Coupeville Wharf because of revenue shortfalls.
Jim Patton executive director for the Port of Coupeville, said that the easement dollars will be talked about during the commissioners Dec. 12 meeting. He has a list of 10 to 12 potential maintenance items that include replacing the fuel floats and installing an additional restroom at the Coupeville Wharf.
One thing is for sure, the Port won’t be able to pay off its debt on the Greenbank Farm. Patton said the Port is obligated to continue paying more than $100,000 a year, which is about a third of its levy income, through 2017.
The commissioners meeting takes place Wednesday, Dec. 12, 10 a.m. in the Coupeville Public Library.