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Freeland property owners gear up to fight sewers

Property owners opposed to a new sewer system in Freeland said they will fight the Freeland Water and Sewer District's plans for the project.

A group of Freeland residential and commercial property owners met on March 5 to talk about their opposition to the sewer proposal, and the water district has started to receive letters from property owners who want to "opt out" of the project. One attendee at the recent meeting said opponents were starting to go door-to-door in Freeland to raise awareness of the $40 million sewer project.

The board for the Freeland Water and Sewer District will meet at 5:45 p.m. tonight at the Freeland Library.

The sewer project would be financed through a "local improvement district," or LID, where affected property owners would receive assessments from the county to cover the costs of building the new system.

Supporters of the new sewer system have said it will help clean up pollution in Holmes Harbor, and would allow greater growth in Freeland.

Critics of the sewer project are worried about the cost of the project, and have said that sewer district officials have not been straightforward in sharing the costs that property owners will be expected to pay to help the system get built or connect to new sewers once they are put in. Recent and unofficial estimates of the hook-up costs have ranged from $20,000 to $90,000.

Allen Peyser said he estimated the project may cost property owners more than $70,000 per parcel, "a cost that will financially crush many property owners."

"A large group of citizens is fighting this LID and its extremely high cost per parcel," Peyser said.

A public hearing on a proposed LID is scheduled for May 24.

The district plans to send notices to property owners before the hearing that will set out what the costs will be to each property.

Preliminary estimates of LID assessments are also expected to be released during two open houses, planned for May 10 and May 17. The actual amount of the assessments may not be determined until after the LID is formed, officials said. Assessment costs may change if there are cost overruns, or if the project comes in under budget. The amount of grant money received will also impact the size of assessments.

District commissioners are expected to vote on May 24 on a resolution to form the LID, which would be followed by a 10-day period where property owners can submit formal protests to the LID.

If owners of 40 percent of the land within the LID protest, the LID can not be formed.

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