"Freeland, EDC to work together"
June 25, 2008 · Updated 6:36 PM
"Who attended?The Island District Economic Development Council's board of directors includes members from throughout the island. Here is a list of those who attended Tuesday's meeting in Freeland:Andrew Hunt, board president, from Whidbey Island Bank; Nancy Conard, vice president, mayor of Coupeville; Don Piercy, at-large member, InterWest Bank; Bill Sievers, past present, H&H Properties; Loretta Martin, director, Langley Chamber of Commerce; John LaFond, Oak Harbor city council; Bryan Nichols, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders; Scott Lincoln, Lincoln Computers; John Watson, attorney at law; John Graham, Citizens for Sensible Development; Charlie Stromberg, Mountain Stream Corporation; and Stan Stanley, Business Development Associates.Not in attendance were Dave Ellis, Fran Einterz, Bob Fakkema, George Henny, Ken Hofkamp, Dennis Hunter, Karl Krieg, Bill Massey, Larry Munns, Darcie Nielsen (San Juan County), Don Sherman, and Marcia Smith.The entire board meets quarterly as a rule. An executive committee that heads the board meets the second Tuesday of each month at the EDC office in Coupeville at 7:30 a.m. Present members of that committee are Andrew Hunter, Nancy Conard, Scott Lincoln, Dave Ellis, Don Piercy and Bill Sievers. For information call 1-888-506-7999.Fence mending is under way in Freeland between the community and the Island District Economic Development Council (EDC).The EDC was formed years ago as a pro-business group, but its favoritism toward a controversial gas station complex at the corner of Highway 525 and Fish Road in Freeland has caused some negative reaction from environmentalists and others who want to retain Freeland's rural character.The EDC board met Tuesday morning in Freeland. Observing were several members of the county-appointed Freeland Subarea Planning Committee, which is preparing a community comprehensive plan. One member, Al Peyser, told the EDC board that it was heading toward potential conflict with community development along the highway, citing specifically the proposed gas station complex. The EDC represents business, Peyser said. We think we represent the community.The gas station would be built on property zoned commercial, and neither the EDC nor the Subarea Committee has taken a formal stance on it. Opponents are fighting it on environmental grounds. Tom Roehl, subarea chairman, found apparent wide support when he said, We're concerned about how things look in the (highway) corridor, not so much the land use. Peyser and others nodded in agreement.John Graham, an EDC board member, then proposed that the EDC appoint a liaison to observe and work with the Freeland Subarea Planning Committee.We sure would welcome it, said Roehl. Another brain and hopefully another working body would be helpful.The EDC board members present unanimously approved a motion to support the liaison, after stipulating that it should be a Freeland business person if possible. The EDC's executive committee, a separate body, will be asked to find a volunteer, perhaps from among the board of directors.There was less unanimity in another image-polishing proposal from Graham, this one to put the EDC on record as supporting the state Growth Management Act. The EDC, in carrying out its purposes . . . shall comply with the (GMA), as specifically interpreted and applied to Island County by the rulings of the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, the motion stated.Graham said he wasn't implying that the EDC did not ever comply with the GMA, but he said that expressly supporting the state law would improve the EDC's image in the community. We're dealing with a community problem here, Graham said, alluding to public opinion on South Whidbey. Also, this will make sure the county and EDC are rowing in the same direction on GMA.Stan Stanley, an EDC board member from Oak Harbor, wondered if Graham's resolution would mean the board could not comment on the GMA or its enforcer, the state Growth Management Hearings Board, which board members have criticized in the past.John Watson, a South Whidbey attorney, proposed a couple of amendments, one saying the EDC would comply with GMA to the best of our abilities. But Graham held out for a stronger message.Herb Hunt, a Freeland resident involved with the planning process there, supported Graham's motion. He told the EDC board that he has heard concerns that the EDC follows general wishes on the north end for development, not the south end.Nancy Conard, vice-president of the EDC board, noted the late morning hour and cut off debate. This is a very weighty issue, she said. Graham's motion was tabled for further discussion in October. Tom Shaughnessy, EDC executive director, said a special meeting will be held in October to discuss the issue. When a date is selected it will be announced. "