Town of Coupeville to swap parcels with land trust

The council voted in favor of the trade after a public hearing to declare the property surplus.

Coupeville Town Council members voted Tuesday to swap a town-owned parcel of land near the ferry for five acres of forest closer to the town, but owned by the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, in a move expected to benefit both parties.

“We’ve been talking about this and working on this for a long, long time,” said Mayor Molly Hughes, who gave a summary during a public hearing.

The council held the hearing to declare the property surplus. The town’s land is about half an acre on Engle Road that was purchased from Camp Casey decades ago. It had an underground water cistern that was used for water storage about 20 years ago. The cistern was deteriorating and had become a safety issue so it was demolished.

While the parcel has proven useless to the town, the land trust intends to build a small parking lot and trailhead there for hikers visiting Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. The trailhead will provide access to the Walking Ebey’s Trail Corridor. No further development of the land will be permitted.

Meanwhile, the Whidbey Camano Lands Trust owns the “beautiful five acres of woods” right outside the town limits, Hughes said. The land trust is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting land in Island County from development.

“The land trust really has no interest in owning property once they’ve protected it,” Hughes said. It would benefit Coupeville because it provides a “nice greenspace and a beautiful entry into town from Broadway.”

The council passed the motion unanimously with three votes. Councilmember Jackie Henderson was not present at the meeting. Councilmember Pat Powell abstained from the vote due to a possible conflict of interest with the Land Trust.

The mayor said that Coupeville and the land trust shared some of the costs of building the parking lot and demolishing the cistern. Land trust staff did all of the permitting for the project.

The two pieces of land are similar in value.

“I really feel like it’s been a fair partnership and a fair exchange,” she said.