Pave paradise and put in a parking lot?

A plan to further protect the publicly owned Greenbank Farm appears to have hit an impasse with Island County which is eyeing part of the land for a parking lot.

The Port of Coupeville, which owns much of the farm, wants an easement to add a layer of protection for the agricultural and environmentally sensitive land while bringing in money to replenish depleted cash reserves. Island County wants language for a commuter parking lot included in the document.

“The conservation easement is being held hostage to put a transit park at the Greenbank Farm,” said Jim Patton, executive director for the Port of Coupeville, after Wednesday’s monthly commissioners meeting.

He argues the conservation easement, in which the port basically surrenders its development rights for the land, shouldn’t include a transit park. The zoning for the farm says transit parks can only be placed in the farm’s commercial zone, which is specifically excluded from the conservation easement.

County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said the process is in “limbo” and is waiting for the port to appoint someone to mediate the discussions. Developing a conservation easement is a lengthy process and Price Johnson said the county tried to alert the port of that fact.

She said the language of the conservation easement hasn’t been negotiated yet. The county wants to make sure there is space for a transit park somewhere at the Greenbank Farm.

In 2010, the Port of Coupeville went through the Conservation Futures Fund process to secure $400,000 that would be dispersed over the next eight years. Those $50,000-a-year payments would account for half of the bonds the port pays each year for the farm.

The Board of Island County Commissioners approved the futures fund award on the condition an appraisal on the farm be performed first.

During the process to develop the language of the easement the transit park requirement appear.

With progress stalled on the easement, officials are trying a different tack to resolve issues concerning the easement.

The port wants Pat Powell, executive director for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, to interview the parties involved to find common ground on the easement.

However the port doesn’t have any money to pay Powell, much less fund an appraisal or to hire an outfit, such as the Land Trust, to draft a title deed for the conservation easement.

To get the ball rolling, the Greenbank Farm Management Group agreed to foot the bill for the first part of Powell’s work with the understanding it will be reimbursed later.

Patton said he doesn’t know yet what the costs will be for the interviews, appraisal of the property and the writing of the final title deed.

In the meantime, he has to work on developing the port’s 2012 budget. A draft document has to be ready in time for the port’s September meeting. The Port of Coupeville commissioners instructed Patton Wednesday to develop the budget without the $50,000 payment from the Conservation Futures Fund.


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