SOUNDOFF: Farm friends were prepared

As a friend of Krueger Farm, I would like to respond to your editorial of Aug. 18 where you stated: “The Port of Coupeville commissioners did the logical thing” in rejecting the proposed resolution because “the proposal was not thoroughly thought out by its proponents, and as a result, there was no clear economic benefit resulting from the Port’s involvement.”

Also, I would like to acknowledge your continued support for the effort to preserve the property, and especially express appreciation for your acknowledgement of the truly tragic loss of our beloved friend and sparkplug, Sally Hayton-Keeva.

After spending countless hours with my co-workers. Friends of Krueger Farm, researching; talking to community members, meeting on the land with architects, consulting with a professional in the field of Rural Economic Development and then sifting through proposal options, I must disagree that our proposal was not well thought out. I believe we gave the Port an excellent proposal offering the Port, and Central Whidbey, a clear positive, empowering pathway toward economic development that met both the Port’s mission and the community’s aesthetics and needs.

In our opinion, the proposal addressed concerns that had been raised by the landowner and the Port regarding the long-term economic impact on property owners pertaining to the commercial property associated with the construction of a community use building. Further, the proposal took into account input from community members who believe Coupeville should not forego the option of development in a centrally-located, commercially-zoned location. Finally, the proposal provided between $200,000 and $250,000, depending on closing costs, to develop a quality comprehensive professional development plan that would rely upon private investors rather than tax paying citizens to complete.

Offering the Port commissioners a detailed building and budget proposal would have been derelict. According to professionals such a plan takes from twelve to eighteen months to develop.

Specifically our proposal asked that the Port of Coupeville place on the November ballot a resolution asking for $1.5 million dollars of which $1.2 million dollars would be paid to the landowner over a two year period, with the remaining portion being used as seed money to develop a comprehensive economic plan that would have led to partnering with a land developer who would then develop the property in accordance with conditions derived from the planning process.

The development envisioned by Friends of Krueger Farm would have significantly decreased the amount of the bond and additionally would have provided income/repayment to the Port/ property owners through leasing agreements with a designated developer. The conditions placed on the developer would have been arrived at through an advisory board seeking public input, and from professionals in the field of architecture and marketing.

This model provides employment and business opportunities for local persons; generates tax revenue for the town; and maintains the aesthetic of Coupeville furthering tourism and therefore revenue for existing businesses.

For a very small sum this proposal preserves the remaining property for nature trails and public use, and by eliminating 52 dwellings saves city property owners the increased costs associated with growth and resultant infrastructure and services.

The Washington Public Ports Association states that Port may, among other things:

Develop lands for industrial and commercial needs.

Buy, lease and sell property.

Promote tourism.

Provide environmental enhancement, protection, and public access.

Engage in economic development.

Construct parks and recreational facilities.

The association additionally states that: “Public ports are working to protect and enhance our state’s natural environment…”

There is no doubt in my mind that we proposed a plan that meets the Port’s mission. The disappointing outcome is that the Port denied the public the opportunity to decide the destiny of Coupeville by failing to sponsor the resolution.

Rather than allowing a democratic process, commissioners made the decision to forgo the ballot issue, stating that they did not have a clear enough understanding of the proposal to allow it to go forward. The mandate should have come through a public process. If the community voted no then the collective decision would have ended the project. In the alternative, the project would have gone forward. All told, I think the public should have been empowered to make the decision.

Jan Pickard lives in Coupeville.

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