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Greenbank Farm recommendations unveiled

A group of eight volunteers spent the last six months figuring out recommendations on how the publicly owned Greenbank Farm should be operated.

The group, known as the Greenbank Farm Executive Planning Group, recommended that the Port of Coupeville shouldn’t extend the current contract with the Greenbank Farm Management Group, which is set to expire March 31, 2014. In addition, the group recommended that the port should solicit requests for proposals for the selection of future management for the group. The volunteers also stated that the port, as it currently functions, should not assume management of the Greenbank Farm without the assistance of a management entity, according to a report released Wednesday morning during a special meeting of the commissioners of the Port of Coupeville.

“It’s disappointing to me that the group doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the port’s ability to manage the farm,” commissioner Laura Blankenship said during the meeting.

Years ago, she used to manage the Greenbank Farm.

The planning group expressed concerns during the meeting about the port’s oversight of the Greenbank Farm and the Greenbank Farm Management Group.

They were concerned public and private money had been co-mingled. In fact they voted that the port should consider selling the farm with restrictive covenants.

Fran Einterz, a Coupeville farmer who is one of the members of the volunteer group, said there appears to be a conflict with the port’s mission of economic development and the community’s wishes and restrictive covenants that were placed on the farm.

Despite the concerns about the finances of the Greenbank Farm Management Group, the report stated, at the time of the writing, that there isn’t any known financial management or reporting issue that should preclude the management group from consideration for a management role in the farm.

The report also included recommendations for the agriculture land at the farm. The report states that the goals of the Greenbank Farm master site plan hasn’t been achieved.

The Port of Coupeville lost significant revenue by not leasing agricultural land at the farm. It needs to take a greater role determining the uses for the agriculture areas, the report states.

“The port needs to step up and make these decisions,” Einterz said.

The group recommended that the port should negotiate leases for the agriculture land and the port should receive rent from those leases, which will represent fair market value.

The Whidbey Conservation District should develop a viable farm plan and an agriculture advisory group should be established, according to the report.

Val Hillers, member of the planning group, said the port needs to revise the Special Review District zoning so more land can be used for agriculture uses.

The commissioners for the Port of Coupeville seemed grateful for the report.

“I’m absolutely impressed by the work this group has done,” Commissioner Benye Weber said during the meeting.

Commissioner, Laura Blankenship had a sheet of nine motions she wanted the three-member board to consider. Those motions ranged from subleasing security deposits to requiring a public meeting to be held before the commissioners consider changing the lease agreement with the management group.

Commissioners Weber and Marshall Bronson didn’t second any of Blankenship’s motions. They said they wanted time to examine the report before making any further decisions.

The commissioners for the Port of Coupeville will meet 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the Coupeville Public Library.

 

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