Farm easement advances

One question regarding whether the Port of Coupeville can place another layer of protection on the open land at the Greenbank Farm appears to have been answered.

The state Attorney General’s office provided an informal opinion stating the port could legally place a conservation easement on the agriculture and recreational land at the 151-acre farm.

Port officials had sought an opinion from the state Attorney General’s office and went through State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen’s office to get that opinion.

Jim Patton, port executive director, said the opinion was needed to answer concerns raised by the Washington State Auditor’s Office. There were concerns that such a conservation easement goes against the rationale of a public port’s focus on economic development.

Port officials argued that keeping the land at Greenbank protected from development keeps it as a tourist attraction, which would boost local businesses.

With the opinion in hand, Patton is planning to meet with county officials to further discuss the issue. Plans call for Island County to act as conservator for the easement to assure terms are enforced.

Before the easement becomes a reality there are several hurdles that still need to be crossed.

The stickiest point revolves around compensation for the conservation easement. The port has to determine the value of the development rights and what kind of consideration would have to be given to transfer those rights.

In addition to possible compensation, port officials have to complete several other administrative tasks before the easement can move forward.

Work is continuing to develop a Master Site Plan for the Greenbank Farm. Part of the work on developing the plan will better delineate the types of land uses at the farm. Once that task is complete, port officials will approach the county to amend the special review district zoning that encompasses the farm.

A preliminary draft of the Greenbank Farm’s Master Site Plan should be ready for public review by the end of January.

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