County, consultant unveil Main Street plan

Island County has unveiled its “Main Street Corridor plan” for Freeland, and the proposal includes landscaped medians that divide each end of the town’s main drag.

The idea is to make an attractive gateway into Freeland while improving traffic and pedestrian safety. The street redesign also includes 6-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of the street and both, parallel and angled, parking along Main Street.

While the plan has supporters, one local activist says the plan is premature.

Mike Dolan, chairman of the volunteer group Vision 2025, didn’t find fault with the plan, but said it was coming too soon. The Vision 2025 group has been hosting meetings in recent months to explore the prospects of Freeland becoming a city.

“It was premature because it can’t be implemented until we have sewers,” Dolan said.

“At this point we don’t know when that will be,” he added. “And in the meantime there is a lot of potential for change on Main Street.”

The Main Street Corridor Plan was developed by for the county by the consulting firm Otak, Inc. for $40,000. The plan leaves Main Street intact, but adds enhancements to improve safety and aesthetics along the busy business core in Freeland. The elements of the plan were developed from a series of meetings with local residents and business people in February and April.

“It’s a plan that will sit on the shelf with the other plans developed in the past for Freeland,” Dolan said.

To be sure, Freeland has seen its share of studies. Previous plans include a 1988 University of Washington study; the “Maker plan” that was created following a series of public meetings in 1991, and the Freeland Comprehensive Plan, which was submitted to the county in 2004.

“Most people like what is in those plans, but much of it is boiler plate,” Dolan said.

“I don’t fault Otak, or the county. The county is simply crossing its T’s and dotting its I’s,” he said.

Dolan said he could see the Otak plan as a starting point to be used sometime in the future.

Additional features in the Main Street plan include new bus stops, a “pocket park” near the senior housing development and more crosswalks along Main Street.

Consultants on the plan said people who came to talk about Freeland’s Main Street want to make sure it stays walker-friendly.

“It goes to show that people are willing to work to make Freeland a walkable community,” said Jodie Vice, project manager for Otak, Inc.

The improvements in the Main Street plan are estimated to cost $2.7 million, and the county has $1.4 million budgeted for the improvement project.

Otak officials said the plan could be built in phases.

The proposed improvements were presented in three phases: enhancements along the retail corridor from Harbor Avenue to East Harbor Road are estimated to cost $918,000; along the new development corridor from Harbor Avenue to Newman/Scott Roads, the estimated cost is $864,000, and improvements in the area Otak calls the “commercial core” (from East Harbor Road to Highway 525) are expected to cost $918,000.

However, the plan will not become a reality until the sewers are under construction.

Vice said the corridor plan could be implemented as sewers were being built.

One feature that was favored by a number of residents — but not included in the proposed plan — was a designated bike lane.

“There is not enough space for a full bike lane, but there is enough room for riders to use the shoulder,” Vice said.

A legal bike lane is 6 feet wide; the shoulder is 4 feet wide on both sides of the street.

The purpose of the Main Street Corridor Concept Study was to provide Freeland residents with a safe, pedestrian-friendly, attractive Main Street. The county identified the project as a high-priority improvement in the Freeland Sub Area Plan.

“The next steps in the planned improvements include continued support from local volunteer committees who are building trails and paths, a continued effort to seek funding for the Main Street plan and collaboration with the Freeland Water District for the sewer plan development,” Vice said.

In the meantime, the local volunteer group Friends of Freeland is adding its own touch of improvements to downtown Freeland.

With a federal grant of $45,000 and matching in-kind labor and material donations, the group has added planters and landscaping features in front of two business at Main Street and Harbor Avenue.

Earlier this month, the Friends completed a walkway of crushed asphalt between the post office and Payless Foods. The group plans to extend the walkway along Main Street to Washington Mutual Bank, adding a bench to the grassy area near the coffee kiosk.

And the next project planned for completion this summer is the Capes Trail from Vinton and East Harbor Road behind the Freeland Shopping Plaza. The Port of South Whidbey is funding the trail, which will stretch to the Myrtle Street trail.

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