News

Whittick backs out of Greenbank Farm

Being a landlord can be an unpleasant task, as the Greenbank Farm Management Group discovered Thursday that alpaca owner Dick Whittick would be unable to open the long-planned fiber mill in barn number two. Whittick told the board he did not have the financing at this time, nor the equipment, to open a fiber processing mill as had long been planned.

“Everybody’ reaction was disappointment,” Laura Blankenship, Greenbank Farm executive director, said. “We feel sad for his situation and hope he can resolve it.”

Whittick said he too was disappointed, but he hoped the mill would still be a possibility in the future. But first, he needs to sell a waterfront home for which he is asking more than $1 million.

“If I sold the house today I’d be on the phone to Laura (Blankenship).” he said.

He said he felt he had a responsibility to tell the farm group about his cash flow problem, so they could move on.

“They’ve been good friends,” he said.

Based on Whittick’s expressed intention to open a fiber mill and retail store, which would employ local people and serve as a tourist draw, the Port of Coupeville sunk more than $160,000 into remodeling the building last summer. But, it has sat empty as the Port and Greenbank Farm Management Group negotiated a new lease and management agreement. Whittick had stated that he would not lease the building from the Port, but wanted to wait until the farm was in control of the property.

The Port and farm reached that agreement last month, and it was time for Whittick to either step up or back out. The sub-lease with the farm group would have cost Whittick $2,132 per month, plus an estimated $50,000 in startup costs, Whittick said.

Blankenship said they would consider Whittick for the space in the future if it was available, but they need to start looking for other tenants. Barn number two sits adjacent to the main barn, and by next week a new paved walkway and landscaping will connect the two buildings.

The farm group has a committee to screen prospective farm tenants for barn number three, which is yet to be built, but they will now see if any of those prospects would be right for barn number two.

Blankenship said they have letters of interest from a range of groups, including a weavers guild, writers group, and several retail operations.

“We have options for the front retail space, but the back space is a whole other thing,” Blankenship said. The retail space is approximately 800 square feet, while the manufacturing space is about 1,800 square feet. There is also 2,700 square feet of unheated, unfinished space in the barn loft.

Blankenship said prospective tenants will need a sound business plan, good customer base or potential and be financially stable.

The tenant would also lease the space with the knowledge that they might have to move to barn number three when it is available.

Port Commissioner Ed Van Patten, who was opposed to the Port’s funding of the barn remodel, was not surprised to hear Whittick was out.

“I’ve been in banking for 22 years,” he said, “after a bit you get a feel for how people are going to react in a financial situation.”

Van Patten also wanted Whittick to submit a business plan, but neither the other commissioners nor the farm group made that a stipulation of the lease.

It’s unknown at this time if the Port will be able to recover more than $10,000 in change orders that the Port had done on the building at Whittick’s request.

“I’m terribly disappointed,” Van Patten said. “We put a lot of money into the barn and fixed it up for his purpose.”

For the farm group, Blankenship said there a lot of regrets, but no hard feelings.

“The farm has to move on,” she said.

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

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