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"Freeland, Clinton growth boundaries placed in doubt"

"It appears that, for the time being, the size of Freeland and Clinton growth areas will be determined by a state board in January rather than by the county or the towns themselves.The Whidbey Environmental Action Network announced last week that they will continue to challenge the growth boundaries commissioners have drawn around the two unincorporated areas. This comes after meetings between the commissioners and WEAN that both sides hoped would find common ground. At stake is how much land each town will be able to develop at a higher density than land outside their boundaries.WEAN first objected to the boundaries a year ago when county officials released a long-delayed Comprehensive Plan that outlined county growth over the next 20 years. Along with the Citizen’s Growth Management Coalition, the group filed a legal appeal before the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board saying the boundaries were too loosely drawn and permitted too much development sprawl.In June, the board, which oversees county and city compliance with the state’s 1990 Growth Management Act, agreed with WEAN and ordered the county to go back and either plan for urban services within the boundaries or reduce their size. In the county’s plan Freeland and Clinton are Rural Areas of more Intense Development, or RAIDs. A RAID is a planning term used to describe areas of the rural landscape where existing development has already exceeded the permitted base density. Base rural density permits one dwelling unit for every five acres.Freeland and Clinton have permitted densities as high as four units per acre under the county’s plan. RAIDs are allowed to fill in with similar density but not expand. The Growth Management Act says RAID boundaries should be tightly drawn around existing development only.WEAN spokesperson Marianne Edain said this is not a new challenge but a continuation of the appeal already in place. She said similar challenges on other issues are likely to follow but the deadline for the RAID issue arrived first.“There are plenty of critical areas around Freeland and Clinton that would have been toasted in the plan as written,” she said. Among other things, WEAN wants to have land south of Highway 525 and parcels located between Freeland and the Holmes Harbor Golf and Country Club removed from the Freeland RAID. They also want “large portions” of the Clinton RAID removed.In June, the growth board said they would consider invalidating county development regulations regarding Freeland and Clinton if the county didn’t abide by its order. Edain said the county hasn’t done so.“What part of no don’t they understand?” she asked.Following the board’s order county officials did go back and review the boundaries and say they can justify their decisions. Local planning groups in both Freeland and Clinton are at work trying to chart a logical growth course. By December of 2000 each town has to decide whether to move toward cityhood by becoming a Non-Municipal Urban Growth Area. Such a designation would permit even greater urban-style development.Island County Planning Director Phil Bakke said he wanted to take another look at WEAN’s objections before commenting on their recent challenge. A hearing before the growth board is scheduled for Jan. 12 in Coupeville."

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