Big Rock building slated to begin

A controversial new building in front of Coupeville’s landmark “Big Rock” is scheduled to start soon.

The 4,400-square-foot building will house Miriam’s Espresso and Videoville, which are currently located across the street.

When called for details on the planned construction project, owner Frank Meyer wouldn’t comment and hung up the phone.

Although he didn’t have a hard date scheduled for the start of construction, Ted Clifton, the contractor hired to build the new business, said work should start soon. He hopes to have the building complete by Christmas.

Should construction start, Meyer would meet the deadline set by the Coupeville Town Council when it approved a rezone of the property in 2002. One of the conditions set on the rezone required a building constructed on the property by July 2007.

Meyer’s building permit originally expired at the end of 2004, however Town Planner Larry Kwarsick said the Meyers renewed the permit and construction can go forward.

As plans to develop the grassy field in front of Big Rock continue, so does a lawsuit trying to prevent any development on the property. Big Rock is a glacial erratic, one of the largest in the Northwest. Some townspeople tried to convince the town to purchase the land in front of the rock for a park, but that effort failed.

The proposed building has been a focal point of controversy for several years.

A community group, Oh Oh, Inc., filed a lawsuit in mid-2002 claiming the project didn’t take into account the town’s Comprehensive Plan. That lawsuit was dismissed in March 2003 because a judge ruled Oh Oh didn’t have standing to bring such a lawsuit. The lawsuit was reinstated in May 2003 when the group argued that traffic and safety issues would negatively impact the area.

Mickey Gendler, a Seattle attorney representing Oh Oh, Inc. was surprised to hear the week the construction project was moving forward after two years of inactivity.

“We had hoped that with all this time passed that they wouldn’t have gone forward with their project,” Gendler said.

When he heard of the impending construction of the new building, he started moving forward with the lawsuit.

In addition to the traffic impacts, Gendler is filing discovery motions to examine the relationship between Town Attorney Dale Roundy and Frank Meyer. Gendler said Roundy has been listed as a registered agent for Frank Meyer.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said there isn’t a conflict-of-interest issue concerning Roundy and Meyer.

“That’s their contention and we don’t agree,” Conard said.

She said that Roundy has represented Meyer in previous years but hasn’t been involved in the Big Rock case. She said Roundy did attend a previous public meeting concerning the case but didn’t give any legal advice.

As Oh Oh, Inc. moves forward with its lawsuit, the two sides are meeting to set up a schedule.

The case will be heard in Skagit County Superior Court in Mount Vernon.

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