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Greenbank Farm easement talks to continue next month

The incoming commissioner for the Port of Coupeville asked without success that work to add further protections for the Greenbank Farm be suspended for several weeks.

Laura Blankenship, who won the vacant port commissioner seat during November’s election, wanted talks to hash out a conservation easement for the Greenbank Farm to cease until January, which is when she will be sworn in and can better participate in the process.

She made the request during Wednesday’s Port of Coupeville meeting.

Blankenship said after the meeting that she agrees with the need for a conservation easement for the farm, but she has concerns about the process leading up to that easement. She didn’t go into detail about what those concerns are. She wanted to share them with the other two commissioners first.

The Port of Coupeville has asked the help of the Whidbey Camano Land Trust to resolve an impasse with Island County over the easement. The port  wants to give up the development rights on the agriculture and environmentally sensitive land on the publicly owned facility. The Island County commissioners approved giving the Port of Coupeville $400,000 in Conservation Futures tax funds, which would be dispersed over an eight-year period. Since the port purchased a portion of the farm, leaders have seen its cash reserves disappear while making the $100,000 annual payments.

Negotiations on the complicated legal document stalled over a park and ride lot the county wants.

Commissioner Benye Weber noted that commissioner Marshall Bronson was absent from the meeting and the port had already committed to the current process.

“I am not in favor of suspending anything at this point,” Weber told Blankenship.

Michael Stansbury, an attorney with the Greenbank Farm Management which runs the farm, said it’s unlikely any substantial work on the easement will take place before Blankenship is sworn in.

Jim Patton, port executive director, said the land trust was asked to resolve the “misunderstanding” between the port and county. The Land Trust’s executive director, Pat Powell, will work to find common ground between the two entities, get an appraisal for the value of the development rights and then write a new easement.

Despite the Conservation Futures money having been awarded, the port leaders figured they wouldn’t receive a payment in 2012 when they developed the port’s budget.

Blankenship is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 11.

 

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