Businesses told to start planning

"Business leaders were told Friday to start paying attention to local planning efforts now under way in Freeland and Clinton.Speaking to a crowd of 50-plus at the Island District Economic Development Council annual business meeting at Teddy's in Freeland, Island County Planning Director Phil Bakke described as exciting the work now being done by the Freeland and Clinton subarea planning committees.The committees spent their first year of operation in 1999 assessing local conditions, but now they're getting into the nuts and bolts of planning their communities' futures, Bakke indicated.We're drawing lines and starting to make proposals, Bakke told the breakfast gathering. Your participation is critical. It directly affects your property and your business opportunities.Bakke made copies of a proposed sign and lighting ordinance available, as that too will impact how businesses will operate.Bakke said the county hopes Freeland and Clinton will become what is known in planning jargon as Non Municipal Urban Growth Areas. While short of city-hood, the UGA designation could lead to permanent local planning boards that would adopt development regulations within their communities.The Freeland Subarea Planning Committee's next meeting is Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church.The Clinton Subarea Planning Committee will meet Monday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. at the Clinton Progressive Hall.Transportation levels a threat?Also speaking was Larry Kwarsick, director of public works for Island County. His remarks consisted of a warning about transportation planning and how it could adversely affect development in the county.The state is setting levels of service for state highways, such as 525 and 20 on Whidbey Island. Once those levels are exceeded, development permits might not be allowed until transportation improvements are made.Kwarsick said one stretch of highway between Oak Harbor and Deception Pass already exceeds the state's proposed level of service, while Highway 525 between Clinton and Freeland is projected to exceed the service level by 2003.While Kwarsick supports the levels as a performance gauge, he doesn't think they should be tied to development permits, a term which he said remains undefined. The scary part is this model is going to be imbedded in regulation, he said. Ferry traffic will also be used to set the level of service.Kwarsick urged the business people to voice their concerns to the state Transportation Commission and the Transportation Department. The levels of service are scheduled to be adopted in late 2000.We're going to have a real dilemma at the end of this year, Kwarsick said. Will the county be able to issue development permits?Also speaking was Bob McCaughan, county building official, whose remarks included the report that new employees have been hired recently in his department and the extra help will speed up the process of issuing permits."

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