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Development: Casey plan supported with reservations
On Dec. 16, after considerable comment was allowed from a packed courtroom of concerned citizens, the Island County Commissioners approved the concept of Camp Caseys Conference Center Expansion Plan and their request for a Special Review District.
In making their decision, the commissioners emphasized that Camp Casey has been a good neighbor for 50 years and expressed the belief they will expand responsibly. They concurred with the assessment of Island County Planning that the Special Review District designation, in conjunction with the Master Plan, actually limits the amount of development at that site more than current zoning does. At the meeting, Camp Casey officials stressed that it would be counter-productive for them to do environmental damage to the site, since it is the beauty of the site that brings people to their Conference Center.
While I continue to support Camp Caseys need to expand their facilities to ensure continued financial viability, I also continue to believe that parts of their plan are unwise, will irreparably damage their forest, and will unfavorably alter the character of the Ebeys Landing Historical Reserve. I also believe, however, that this is not their intent. I therefore think we should accept the commissioners decision and give Camp Casey and Island County Planning the benefit of the doubt, trusting that they seek to end up with the best possible result for everyone concerned.
We have been assured that every Camp Casey development permit that will now be sought will be scrutinized to ensure compliance with regulations and the stipulations of the Special Review District. Never-the-less, those of us who remain concerned about aspects of the plan need to increase our involvement. The arduous, detailed work necessary to ensure that this has a happy ending has actually just begun. Specifically, I am committed to working with Camp Casey planners to educate them about the kind of wind damage they can certainly expect if they persist with the current plan to carve their expansion out of the southern end of their forest.
The forest in which I live will, alas, serve as the example. I think it will dawn on them that a blown-down forest, crushed cabins and retreat buildings, and maimed conference attendees will not likely lead to the achievement of their financial goals. In addition, a major effort needs to be mounted to secure funding from many sources, both public and private, to purchase and save from development the northern 30 acres that Camp Casey must sell to help fund their expansion project. This will preserve the rural character of the environs of the recently saved Engle fields, save the threatened golden paintbrush that grows there, and keep alive the dream of a continuous non-beach trail from Fort Ebey to Fort Casey. I believe we should, unless subsequent events indicate otherwise, move forward with the decision of the commissioners and trust the assurances and intent of Camp Casey. We should work with the Casey planners to correct the deficiencies that we see in their plan. If their intent is truly as they have now publicly indicated for the record, I believe, once made aware of all the facts, they will see it is in their own self-interest to modify the plan.