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Ruling could end Crockett Barn events

A ruling issued June 30 by Island County Hearing Examiner Michael Bobbink will likely put an end to charitable events being held at the historic Crockett Barn.

The decision upheld a recommendation by Island County Planning and Community Development officials that the barn’s owner, Coupeville resident Paula Spina, be allowed to hold events on just 30 days of the year.

According to Spina, she will need to hold at least that many events to pay for the historic structure’s upkeep over the next decade. That leaves very little time to rent the barn out to community groups at a discounted price.

“That old adage, ‘No good deed goes unpunished;’ I really feel that’s what’s going to happen here,” Spina said.

Spina submitted an application to the county to turn the barn into a rural event center in June of 2009. The permit would allow the barn to be rented out for commercial purposes, such as weddings or community events. Spina said the barn had been used that way for years and that the permit would allow her to legally make enough money to pay for the barn’s maintenance.

At least 28 residents that live around the barn protested the application by adding their names to a petition. Many claimed the permit would turn the historic structure into a “party barn,” resulting in activities ranging from loud music to public drunkenness.

James Moore, who is Spina’s closest neighbor, said Bobbink’s decision was fair and included nearly everything he and the other neighbors asked for.

“I hope everyone is happy with the decision because I consider it a good victory,” Moore said.

Both Moore and Spina are members of the Island County Historical Committee, the advisory group charged with reviewing the design of new and existing development applications within Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Moore serves as the chair of the committee.

Bobbink’s ruling required several other considerations for Spina’s neighbors. Along with putting a 200 person limit on events, Bobbink also mandated that no events be held on at least one weekend of every month. Events must shut down by 10 p.m., amplified outdoor music is not to be allowed outside, and any outdoors activity must cease by dusk.

“These are all reasonable things,” Moore said. “I’m pleased.”

However, Spina complained that many of those mitigations will make it hard for her to compete for weddings and other profitable events. While there are not many, the Crockett Barn is not the only place in Island County where people can get married, she said.

According to Spina, the barn will need about $250,000 in renovations over the next seven to 10 years. The siding, doors and roof will all need replacement, she said. To raise the money, she said she will need to hold 30 events every year that bring in at least $1,000 each.

Spina said about 20 charitable and community events are held at the barn annually, including those from the Coupeville Arts Center, which is run by Moore’s wife, Sue Symons. While Spina said the permit will probably allow her to hold enough events to pay the barn’s bills, it does not allow enough time for the charitable events.

“I’ll make a go of it one way or another,” she said. “It’s the community that loses.”

Although Spina has 14 days to appeal Bobbink’s ruling with the Island County Board of Commissioners, she said she has not yet made a decision about whether she will pursue that option.

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