Spina appeals barn ruling to commissioners

Paula Spina, owner of the historic Crockett Barn off Fort Casey Road, has decided to appeal the conditions imposed on her rural event permit after all.

“Yes, I appealed,” said Spina. “I couldn’t live with 30 event days a year.”

In a June 30 decision, Island County Hearing Examiner Michael Bobbink ruled that the Crockett Barn could be used for commercial purposes, albeit with certain conditions. Along with a 200-person cap on all events, Bobbink limited events of 51 or more people to 30 event days per year. There was no such cap placed on the number of functions that could be held with 50 or fewer people.

While those who opposed the permit have chalked up Bobbink’s ruling as a win for all, Spina claims the conditions are so restrictive that she will be unable to cover the old barn’s maintenance expenses, which she estimates at about $250,000 over the next 10 years.

“The math just doesn’t work,” she said.

Spina submitted an application to Island County Planning and Community Development 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.

She claims the barn has been used that way for years and that the permit would allow her to legally make enough money to pay for its maintenance.

Over the past year, the permit request became embroiled in controversy. At least 28 residents that live near the barn signed a petition opposing the application, while supporters advocated their positions with letters to the editor and written comments to planning officials. Several public meetings on the issue were filled to nearly standing room only.

When interviewed shortly after Bobbink’s June decision, Spina was unsure about whether she would appeal. At the time, she estimated that she had spent at least $10,000 trying to obtain the rural event permit.

Spina said she made up her mind the day before the July 14 deadline because she claims she had been barraged with emails and telephone calls from people in the community urging her to appeal.

The process for this type of permit means the issue will go before the Island County Board of Commissioners for a decision. If it upholds Bobbink’s ruling, the decision could then be appealed in Island County Superior Court.

Including new attorney fees, Spina is now estimating that she has spent up to $20,000 trying to get this permit approved. Considering the expense, she said she is not willing to accept a decision that allows her only limited use of the historic barn.

“Now that I’ve gone this far, obviously I’ll file suit if I have to,” Spina said.

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