At long last, farm gets lease

There were no speeches, confetti nor champagne cork-popping to mark the occasion; not even a high five between the parties involved as Port of Coupeville Commissioner Ed Van Patten signed his approval to the new Greenbank Farm management agreement and lease at last Wednesday’s Port meeting.

After months of what was a lengthy and sometimes contentious negotiation process, the final moment came with more of a whisper than a shout.

Or as Laura Blankenship, Greenbank Farm executive director, noted at the farm management group board meeting Thursday, “It was the most anticlimactic signing ever.”

The final signing means the farm group can move ahead with renovation plans at the farm, financed by close to $1.5 million in state capital projects funding.

Van Patten signed the lease and it was notarized before the Port meeting even began, as fellow board members Benye Weber and Bruce Bryson were still exchanging greetings and looking over the paperwork for the meeting. The signing did not require board action, as it was decided long ago that Van Patten had the sole authority to sign the lease when it finally met all requirements.

The lease and management contract cleared the last hurdle when the Island County bond counsel agreed that the terms of the lease would not violate the terms of the original sales contract between the Port and Island County.

After the Port meeting Van Patten said simply, “It’s over with. It’s signed and I’m happy that it is.”

“Praise the Lord,” Weber said. “It’s been educational, but interesting.”

The newest Port commissioner, Bruce Bryson, took office in January, long after most of the negotiations were over, but he too was glad to see it finally signed.

“I’m very, very happy,” he said. “On behalf of the whole county, this is the beginning of a lot of good things.”

Tom Baenen, Island County assessor and contract negotiator for the Greenbank Farm Management Group, attended the meeting to witness the pivotal moment.

“It’s a very happy day to see it completed,” he said. “It’s a commitment of support and a good reflection of the cooperation that exists between the non-profit management group, the Port of Coupeville and the taxpayers of the state in the continued development of Greenbank Farm as a community asset as envisioned when the taxpayers agreed to make the investment initially.”

Farm group gets to work

While the mood was celebratory, there were also no corks popped at the Greenbank Farm board meeting Thursday evening; they were too busy getting down to business.

The farm board is racing against the clock to complete the planned capital projects before the mid-2005 funding deadline.

Blankenship has adopted a phased development approach, prioritizing the project in sections that can be accomplished in the shortened time frame.

Initial work will address the fragile infrastructure at the century-old farm, particularly the electrical and water systems.

The board reviewed plans for replacing failing water pipes and adding shutoff valves, and putting electrical lines in the same ditch.

Plans were also approved for a 250-square-foot kitchen addition to Jan Gunn’s Whidbey Pies Cafe in the main barn. The expansion won’t add any seating, but it will allow Gunn to do more cooking on site.

Before tourist season hits full force, the board plans to improve the parking lot and add lighting, and create landscaping and paved access to barn number two, in anticipation of tourists visiting the barn to see the planned fiber mill and retail store.

The Central Whidbey Lions’ Club is working on building a playground near the loganberry patch, but no completion date is set and it’s not dependent on the capital projects funding.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynews or call 675-6611.

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