Rally targets Ebey’s Reserve growth
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
July 25, 2008 · Updated 11:29 PM
Many people living in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve were alarmed when plans were approved for a new 5,000-square-foot home, which they consider out of scale.
Now they’re getting organized. More than 100 people attended a community rally Wednesday at the Crockett Barn located off Fort Casey Road.
Critics are afraid such a large home will threaten the rural nature of Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve and that the historic Sam Crockett house on the same property will eventually be demolished.
Such critics want the permit allowing for construction of the home to be rescinded and urge the county to fight any ensuing legal action.
“I personally think the permit should have been revoked and the county should have had the cojones to fight and see where it went,” said Paula Spina, who helped organize the community rally.
There was an error when a building permit was issued early. The permit couldn’t be taken back because the error was discovered too late. The proposed home would be on the same lot the historical Sam Crockett house is situated on.
Spina, who is a member of the county’s Historical Review Committee, advocated having the county approve several ordinances giving more power to the committee. She wants the board to make decisions about what is built and the power to revoke demolition permits, especially when historic structures are involved.
“The community should be entitled to say, ‘No, you cannot tear it down’,” Spina said, causing the audience to erupt in applause. There is a already a clearing and grading permit issued for the historic Crockett home.
Spina said the regulations allowing short plats need to be clarified and the language in existing regulations needs to be strengthened.
Ian Jefferds, owner of the Crockett house, met his critics head-on, standing to speak during the rally. He alleviated their fears about the historic home, saying it will eventually be moved to a new location on Fort Casey Road.
As for his 5,000-square-foot house, Jefferds told the crowd he has spent the past three years planning the project. Once his home is built the Sam Crockett house will be relocated.
“I understand its history and value. It’s that I just don’t want to live in an old house anymore,” Jefferds said.
He said he offered to sell his property to the Reserve or the Whidbey Camano Land Trust for fair market value, but an agreement couldn’t be worked out.
Jefferds also expressed frustration stemming from dealing with the Historical Review Committee. He said things were left too open to interpretation and there wasn’t any follow up after the fact.
“I didn’t feel that the board functioned well as a group,” Jefferds said.
He defended his home’s design and said it won’t be an atrocity on the prairie.
“I think I’ve designed a real nice house,” Jefferds said.
Island County Planning Director Jeff Tate said that several administrative changes have been made to help prevent a similar permitting snafu from ever taking place again. He said a second staff worker will be assigned to Historical Review Committee meetings to handle paperwork and new forms are being developed.
He said there is a good track record of working with the committee and implementing what they say.
County Commissioner Mac McDowell defended the decision of letting the permit stand, saying the county has to follow the law.
The rally included residents who spoke about the history of the Crockett family and the importance of keeping the area rural in support of community agriculture.
Valerie Reuther, owner of Rosehip Farm, talked about the need for local agriculture to support the island population.
She pointed out that food typically travels 1,500 miles from the farm to the kitchen table, which works out to 400 gallons of gas per year for one American to eat.
Reuther said small farms are popping up everywhere and Central Whidbey is in good position to meet locals demands, as long as it stays rural.
“In the reserve, we are uniquely poised to meet this demand in the community,” Reuther said, highlighting the importance of maintaining the reserve’s rural character.
The rally closed up with several candidates running for office giving campaign speeches.Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.