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"Money riding on planning decisions in Freeland, Clinton"

"If planning doesn't interest people, their pocketbooks certainly do. And when the former starts impacting the latter people will likely start to pay attention.Wednesday night's League of Women Voters' forum on planning efforts in Clinton and Freeland started with a mundane explanation of what's been happening in those unincorporated communities, but things got more interesting when one man in the audience mentioned money.So, people in the area will pay for it? asked Mitchell Streicher, referring to such things as sewer and drainage systems.Nobody denied that planning in those communities could cost local residents money, particularly if planning committees now at work do what the county prefers -- opt to become Non Municipal Urban Growth Areas (UGAs), which requires a plan to implement such expensive infrastructure improvements.Tom Roehl, chairman of the Freeland Subarea Planning Committee, told Streicher that the costs will likely be borne by those who need the improvements. We can afford to leave out the people who don't want to be in, he said, referring to a sewer service area planned by the Freeland Water District.Roehl pointed out that the developers of the new shopping plaza in town spent $40,000 on a new septic system. They'd be happy to abandon it if we put in sewers, he said.Island County Planning Director Phil Bakke emphasized that the UGA designation isn't being required for Freeland or Clinton, even though the county plans on those areas taking more growth in the future. No one should feel that Coupeville is putting this on you, it's totally voluntary on your part, he said.If one or both communities choose to remain in the more relaxed Rural Center zoning, the county would have to amend its comprehensive plan to put more future growth elsewhere, Bakke said. The cities of Langley, Coupeville and Oak Harbor might be asked to accept more population.But Roehl said that if Freeland and Clinton decide against becoming UGA's, that will put more pressure for growth in the rural areas that the county's new comprehensive plan is trying to protect.Patrick Normile, chairman of the Clinton Subarea Planning Committee, cautioned against getting too exercised about costs at this point. He estimated any sewer system in Clinton is at least 10 years in the future.Still, the UGA decision carries a monetary punch. There are dramatic cost implications for property owners, said Mike Helland, a member of the Clinton committee. On the other hand, There's potentially more opportunity to develop your property.Bakke told the audience of some 30 citizens that the county will try to help with UGA costs by seeking grants.But first, the committees must formally decide whether to become UGA's. Those decisions will be made sometime this year, but not before extensive opportunities for public input.We'll let the community decide, said Normile.How to get involvedBoth the Freeland and Clinton Subarea Planning Committees welcome public involvement in the planning process.The Clinton committee meets the first and third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Clinton Progressive Hall.The Freeland committee meets the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church. There is also a working subcommittee that meets each Thursday morning at 8:00 at the Main Street office or architect Herb Hunt. The public is welcome there, too.For more information about the planning effort call Island County Planning Director Phil Bakke, 321-5111, ext. 7309."

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