Hearing on SPU's Camp Casey development postponed

The hearing on a challenge to development plans at Camp Casey has been postponed until late August.

The Whidbey Environmental Action Network has been fighting Seattle Pacific University's attempts to further develop Camp Casey for more than five years. SPU wants to build six new retreat buildings, 40 cabins, an educational center and a chapel at Camp Casey so it can become financially self-sustaining.

WEAN appealed Island County's environmental review of the expansion proposal in early April, and the group has raised concerns about possible impacts to the 25-acre "Heritage Forest" that straddles the Camp Casey property.

WEAN's appeal had been scheduled for Friday. It has now been reset for 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 22.

"The Heritage Forest is about as rare as it gets and ... siting the buildings so close to the forest is putting people and property in harm's way," Steve Erickson, a WEAN spokesman, said in an e-mail to reporters. "It is designing a hazardous situation where the trees will later have be cut to protect the

buildings and people. And in the case of chain saw vs. tree, we know who always wins."

Erickson hinted that WEAN may continue its challenge even if the organization doesn't win at the county level.

"I think our appeal is very strong. And remember - this is just the first step. Even if the hearing examiner rules against us, we can later appeal to the growth management hearings board - the same appeals board that in 2004 invalidated SPU's previous attempt to develop the conference center."

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