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Negotiations over farm continue

Though more details are emerging about the negotiations underway between the Port of Coupeville and Greenbank Farm’s management group over the farm’s future, all sides agree no decisions have been reached.

Port of Coupeville commissioners are considering an early end to the management contract for Greenbank Farm. The current agreement between the farm and the port dates back to April 2004 and has eight years left remaining in the contract.

Greenbank Farm has been owned by the public for nearly a decade. The Port of Coupeville owns and is responsible for the farm’s operations.

The Greenbank Farm Management Group was formed as a nonprofit board of directors to preserve the aesthetic character, economic value and community use of the property.

The farm group’s Vice President Karen Hutchinson, has been tasked with conducting negotiations with the port.

“The underlying goal for both organizations is the continued success of the farm,” Hutchinson said. “We want to create a stronger partnership, to work together and share the burden. The more people are actively involved, the better for the farm.”

She emphasized that negotiations are in an early stage, but the port has a vested interest in how the farm will be run.

“A clear division of roles and responsibilities between both entities is needed,” she added.

In her view, the port would assume a much larger role in property management — dealing with tenants, maintaining the landscape, buildings and other public facilities.

The farm group would focus primarily on community development, ensuring a wide range of non-profit and commercial users have access to the property.

“The farm was saved in 1997 to preserve that fabulous piece of Central Whidbey land,” Hutchinson observed. “Preserving the rural character while pursuing economic development should be the two primary goals.

“I truly believe we’ll be ahead of the game by working together.”

Negotiations to date have revealed points of concern on both sides. But meetings have been very cordial, according to commissioner Bruce Bryson.

“We are certainly going to work hard to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible,” he said.

To that end, port manager Jim Patton reported he is in the process of conducting “due diligence” walkabouts on the property. He has identified piles of scrap metal and old wood that need removal, dealt with scum covering the pond and arranged for the farm’s signature 1904 red barn to be re-painted.

Patton is a busy man. The individual who would eventually handle such details in the future — working directly for the port — remains unclear, just one of many problems to be worked out as negotiations proceed.

“Our intention is to advertise for a qualified, on-site manger to oversee things for the port,” Patton confirmed. “The very minute negotiations are over.”

As a symbol of their desire to move right along, commissioners will hold their next public meeting at Greenbank Farm’s Jim Davis house, 10:30 a.m. on July 12.

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