Community

County commissioners approve Freeland’s growth plan

COUPEVILLE — Island County commissioners approved revised “findings of fact” for Freeland’s growth plan during a meeting Monday morning.

The finalized adoption of the Freeland Sub Area Plan set in motion a two-month appeal period.

The final adoption included some expected changes. The commissioners removed a recommendation to change the zoning for Freeland Hill that was suggested by the county planning commission and Freeland residents.

In their findings of fact, the commissioners said that the site specific restrictions should be covered in future development regulations.

The changes are more in line with the county’s comprehensive plan,

Commissioner Mac McDowell said.

“I think it does what was intended by the board when we adopted the comp plan,” he said. “That purpose was not to zone individual parcels; looking at all the properties, not just one.”

Commissioner Phil Bakke, who was the director of the county’s planning department during much of the work on Freeland’s growth plan, pushed to get the findings of fact approved. The board’s approval was put off a week ago when McDowell raised questions about the time and money that would be spent by the county to create new regulations and comp plan changes that would fit with Freeland’s plan.

“I would urge the board to take action to adopt the findings today,” Bakke said. “I believe the findings are reflective of the discussion that people have in the community.”

Bakke told his fellow commissioners that writing implementation regulations would not be an exercise in futility. McDowell had earlier raised concerns that the rules could be tossed out if Freeland incorporates and the city’s new leaders don’t like the regulations.

“In fact, it will be a necessary component not only for implementing our comprehensive plan should this be incorporated, it is necessary for the fledgling city to be able to have a set of standards that can be referenced and incorporated, if nothing else, for a one-year or six-month period,” Bakke said.

But Bakke also made it clear that he still does not support a design review committee to implement standards for development on issues such as landscaping, architecture and style designs.

“I support detailed design standards. I support empowering the community of Freeland to implement this comprehensive plan design standards that are performance-based; that reflect community interest,” he said.

McDowell disagreed.

“My concern is if we start treating this area so entirely different than anywhere else in the county, it becomes too much of a burden on our planning department,” McDowell said.

While Bakke has said he was ready to press ahead, McDowell again stressed that creating new regulations was going to cost money that might be wasted.

“Does it make sense for the county to go through and have all these design regulations, and then have them (Freeland cityhood supporters) turn around and incorporate and go through that process themselves?” McDowell asked.

“I just can’t see wasting public dollars to play that game if they are going to incorporate,” he said.

He then looked across the room at Jeff Tate, the county’s planning director and asked him if spending four months working on development regulations was prudent, given the expense.

“There is no question. I share much of the same concern of the use of valuable staff resources in the department,” Tate answered.

“I am fully committed to allocating staff resources to start the process. If for no other reason, if incorporation fails, then we will have let a lot of time go by, continuity-wise. I would like to start,” he said.

The commissioners then approved the findings of fact.

And after the 60-day appeal period begins Feb. 16, planning officials will begin talks with architects, designers and others about what the development regulations might look like.

“The local community has a say and will be involved in the drafting of the regulations,” Tate said. “Staff is not just going to write those. We will sit down, sketch ideas out and brainstorm. We’ll use the two months for that.”

As for the design review committee, Tate said the standards would concentrate on commercial zoning first.

Freeland Chamber of Commerce president Chet Ross said he was pleased with the commissioners’ decision.

“Predicated on the revised findings of fact that were adopted today, I think it is great,” he said. “We just have to wait for the appeal period. There is no use in us coming out with our information until that period ends.”

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