Appraiser may determine fair rents at Greenbank Farm

Deciding fair market value for tenant rents at the Greenbank Farm may come down to a third party appraisal.

After receiving requests from several tenants during last week’s regular public meeting, commissioners for the Port of Coupeville approved looking into having appraisals done.

Leases expired at the end of 2016 for most tenants at the farm, and port staff is in the process of negotiating a commissioner-approved 4 percent increase in rents.

Port commissioners, however, are once again wavering back and forth on the numbers.

“The real challenge is finding the right comparable, and I don’t think it’s out there,” said Jan-Marc Jouas, the port’s interim executive director.

Greenbank Farm Wine Shop owner Hollie Swanson said she explored other retail rental prices in Greenbank and found that rates in the commercial area by the Greenbank Store and post office range from 63 to 67 cents per square foot.

Farm tenants now pay anywhere from 48 to 84 cents per square foot in addition to a 12.84 percent leasehold tax.

Because the Greenbank Farm is further off State Highway 525 than the post office retail area, some asked whether those rates are true comparables, and said factors to consider include condition of the farm’s retail space, amenities and signage.

“I hope you consider the intrinsic value of having tenants who are long-term and are devoted to the Greenbank Farm,” said Windwalker Taibi, owner of Ravenrocks Gallery. “So many of us are involved now in the Friends of Greenbank Farm.”

“I just want you to feel secure in the fact we’re devoted,” she said.

When considering rental rates, other factors to consider include cost of water and septic, said David Day, a former executive director for the port.

Currently, the farm’s tenants pay a flat fee of $100 per month for water and sewer.

The port spends an average of $5,000 annually to maintain the systems.

“The port has a fundamental responsibility to manage the money the taxpayers give us,” said Commissioner William Bell. “The responsibility of the port is to be equitable and fair to the tenants but accountable to the taxpayers.”

Pat Powell, executive director for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, which rents the top floor of Barn C at the farm, said a third party appraiser could come in and look at the property objectively and the situation in its entirety.

Powell offered to provide the names of several appraisal companies that she uses when appraising land for the Land Trust.

If the port decides to move forward with obtaining appraisals, Jouas cautioned that the port and farm tenants need to agree ahead of time that both parties are taking a risk that the results may not entirely be in their favor.

While appraisals are being considered, farm tenants will continue to operate on month-to-month leases with the port.