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Freeland remains on sub-area plan timeline

FREELAND — Urban sprawl in Freeland is likely to increase while the city moves forward with its growth plan, according to incorporation proponents.

Sometime this month Island County’s Planning Commission will hold public hearings about Freeland’s draft environmental impact statement to gather comments about the EIS.

After the EIS is finalized, the county commissioners will then have an opportunity in early September to look at these comments. They will decide whether to accept the Planning Commission’s recommendations, hold their own public hearings to look at the issues more or send the EIS back to the Planning Commission with recommendations for changes.

“To get it done by October is a fast track,” said Chet Ross, president of the Freeland Chamber of Commerce. “Then there is a 60-day appeal period. Whoever doesn’t like it can file an appeal to the commissioners and then that has to be resolved. We’re hoping that won’t happen and that by Jan. 1, we can get back onto our schedule for incorporation.”

While getting Freeland incorporation back on track is a goal, Ross wants to see everything done correctly.

“We would much rather be right than to move too soon,” he said. “We are pushing for the February or March election but we aren’t going to shoot ourselves in the foot to maintain that.”

Mike Dolan agrees.

“Once the Freeland sub-area plan is adopted, cleared all of the hurdles and all that, what that effectively does for the incorporation effort is it defines a documented urban growth area,” said Mike Dolan, chairman, Freeland Vision 2025 Committee.

With a UGA defined at that point, Dolan sees that the next step would be to further refine what those boundaries would be.

“We would be able to refile our boundary proposal with the county that will adopt the UGA and we can move forward.”

In July, the Island County Department of Planning & Community Development held a meeting to provide a recap of where Freeland sits with the growth areas in Freeland. Those areas included traffic and road construction projects, potential Freeland city design, a sewer system and stormwater management.

While some members of the audience questioned whether the sub-area plan could be adopted with only draft versions of the sewer and storm water plans during the meeting, the county did not share that opinion.

“Right now it is just policy, higher-level conceptual ideas and everything like that,” said Jeff Tate, assistant director, Island County Planning, “The infrastructure plans only need to be conceptual in nature, as well. If it passes through this next step of environmental review and the Board of County Commissioners adopt the sub area plan, well there is a whole other stage of more detailed work that needs to be done; developing a code that would implement the policy in the sub area plan, developing a real engineered storm water or drainage plan.”

No matter where the sewer plan is in reality, Dolan sees that the system, as it exists at present plan-wise, will help prevent sprawl or mismanaged growth.

“Sewers are pretty much the driving force for everything,” he said. “The community needs sewers to protect the harbor. The community needs sewers in order to ensure that growth is going to occur in the places it is best suited for; that is the densities in the core. Without sewers, Freeland is going to continue to sprawl farther and farther as each five acre parcel is developed. There won’t be anything to manage. When this looks like Lynnwood, who will care?”

As it stands now, sprawl is likely to continue unabated until the UGA is adopted, Dolan said.

“Without sewers, we will continue to have sprawl. With sewers, we’re going to have development growth,” he said. “Without city government, we will continue to have the government we have got today, the management of the lands we have. With a city government, we have a chance to manage our future.”

The public hearing for the EIS is scheduled to happen later this month with dates to be announced.

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