Commissioners pass timeout for Freeland

COUPEVILLE - Island County commissioners unanimously passed a one-year timeout Monday on development proposals that could conflict with Freeland’s new growth plan.

The surprise move follows weeks of criticism of county government from Freeland residents, and many are unhappy about a proposal for a new warehouse storage facility near the Freeland Library.

County commissioners adopted the Freeland Sub Area Plan in December 2007, a document that will guide development in the area south of Holmes Harbor as it becomes increasingly urban.

But a recent proposal by Terry Otey to build a 23,944-square-foot storage building in Freeland, however, has left some residents surprised that developers can still pursue projects under Freeland’s existing zoning laws.

Critics have said the Otey project will be an eyesore, and claim the development conflicts with the vision set out for the area by the Freeland Sub Area Plan.

Some have also said the Otey proposal could be the first in a potential rush to the permit counter by developers who want to capitalize on Freeland’s current zoning before new regulations are implemented that fit with the newly adopted growth plan.

Commissioners did not hold a public hearing before voting on the emergency measure. Commissioners will hold a meeting on June 9 to discuss the ordinance and how development within the interim phase will continue.

Commissioner Phil Bakke led the push for the timeout. He said it was necessary to prevent building projects that won’t fit with Freeland’s new development rules from getting underway before those new regulations are adopted.

“When we adopted the non-municipal urban growth area plan, I don’t think it was on anyone’s radar to look at non-conforming uses,” Bakke said.

The ordinance is a temporary fix until zoning regulations can be established, said county Planning Director Jeff Tate.

Bakke said Monday’s move should show residents that the county wants to wrap up the work required by last year’s adoption of Freeland’s growth plan.

“I think it shows how serious the board of Island County commissioners is about getting on with Freeland and it reiterates the time schedule for doing implementing regulations,” he said.

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