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Cityhood group changes name, possible election date

Incorporation by any other name is still incorporation.

But supporters of cityhood in Freeland recently changed the name of their group to Freeland City Committee in an effort to distance themselves from the term “incorporation.”

“It kind of puts people off, something that is corporate or reminds people of a business transaction,” said Dean Enell, chairman of the Freeland City Committee.

“We don’t want to be associated with the term corporation. The focus is to be a city,” he said.

While Enell and his team focus their attention on the would-be city, they also realize they have to rally support for the concept of cityhood.

In fact, supporters now say the education campaign on incorporation of Freeland could last into the spring of next year. That would mean postponing a public vote on cityhood yet again.

“We have quite a large education task,” Enell said. “We could have a vote in the fall of 2008. But we want to see the people’s perceptions of what Freeland is to them. We want a certain enthusiasm; we want a rallying cry from the people before we put it to a vote.”

A key consideration: Enell said cityhood supporters want the proposal to pass the first time it lands on the ballot.

Regardless of how long it takes for Freeland residents to get onboard with the idea, Enell said Freeland’s future as a city looks more promising than what would come if the area remains under the political control of Island County.

“Because we recognize Freeland as a rapidly growing area, changes are preferable under local control,” he said. “The county is charged with controlling the rural areas.”

The county’s record for managing Freeland’s growth and using its own design standards is woefully inadequate, Enell said.

Enell pointed to the Maple Ridge Assisted Living Center as an example of how Island County bent the rules to allow the facility to be constructed.

Maple Ridge was determined to not be a commercial building and actually is two buildings separated by a firewall.

And as a result, said Enell, the Maple Ridge facility, which appears to be a single building, was not required to meet the 14,000-square-foot maximum size for buildings in Freeland.

“Although members of the Freeland area have been working with the county for many years on developing an appropriate development in the area, this was approved without a word of discussion or seeking any input from the community at all,” Enell added.

Another example of poor development, he said, was the Shell Station that was built on the south side of Highway 525.

“This was allowed to go in on the south side of Highway 525 even though the Freeland rural area of intense development was restricted to the North side of the highway,” Enell said.

“When concerned citizens first heard of this proposal, they objected vehemently and contested the content of the design that had been submitted.”

“It sure does not indicate a proactive spirit of cooperation between the county and Freeland citizens regarding development permitted within their area,” Enell said.

Freeland is an urban area, not a rural one, Enell said.

“We definitely want an attractive walk-able city without traffic jams. I think the county missed some of the vision of what we wanted,” he said.

“If we are successful in incorporation, we will look to do that,” he said. “The committee thought it was important.”

Enell also wants design review of building projects initiated sooner rather than later to encourage appropriate and attractive development.

“We probably would encourage smaller scale urban development, as opposed to the larger communities throughout the rest of the Puget Sound,” he said.

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