Group sues to stop Big Rock rezone

The controversy surrounding a commercial rezone of land in front of Coupeville’s Big Rock has entered the legal arena, with a hearing set for Aug. 30 in Island County Superior Court.

A petition filed Monday by Coupeville attorney Ken Pickard on behalf of watchdog organization Oh Oh, Inc. challenges the town council’s July 9 approval of a commercial rezone application submitted by Frank and Miriam Meyer

The rezone allows the Meyers to relocate their business, Miriam’s Espresso, from the east to the west side of South Main, where a new 4,500 square foot structure would partially obscure the view of the town’s 12,000 year-old glacial erratic. The huge rocks sits on an adjacent piece of property.

The suit names Frank and Mary Tippets, who live next door to the rezoned parcel, as plaintiffs. It was filed against the town of Coupeville as well as the Meyers and their related business interests.

Frank Tippets is a Coupeville town council member. He recused himself from council rezone hearings due to a conflict of interests.

The hearing is scheduled to take place in Island County Superior Court on Aug. 30, and will be presided over by Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock.

According to Paige Sass, legal secretary to Pickard, the Oh Oh suit contends that the town council did not take various provisions of the town’s Comprehensive Plan into consideration when deciding on the rezone, such as the goal of ensuring commercial structures are compatible with their surrounding and to not have a negative effect on natural or historic landscapes.

Also of concern, Sass said, is the document’s allegation that Coupeville’s town attorney, Dale Roundy, is registered as an agent for the Meyers, and that his involvement in advising the town council on the rezone gives at very least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“We have an issue as to whether this was a done deal prior to any public input,” Sass said of the rezone hearings. “This is really not a cool thing. It seemed that there were some closed door operations.”

Roundy did not immediately return a phone call on Friday.

The suit is asking that all town documents relating to the rezone be turned over, Sass said. “We’re hoping at that point the judge will make decisions on a conflict of interests, and will rule on any technicalities,” she added.

Neither Pickard nor Mayor Nancy Conard were available for comment at press time.

Sass said the parcel of land in front of the Big Rock, which is now held in escrow to the Meyers, actually is one of the areas cited in the town’s comp plan as being a potential site for a park. “The plan for the town clearly outlines that that’s an area they should be looking at preserving for a park,” she said. “They dropped the ball in not looking at that space originally.”

Sass added that the folks at Oh Oh have spearheaded a campaign to convert the land in question into a park, already having raised nearly $50,000 in pledges. She said it’s important for people to realize that the final sale of the parcel to the Meyers’ is contingent upon the rezone being approved. “That’s why it was such a burning issue at the public hearing (on July 9),” she said.

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