Freeland business moratorium sought

"A new group in Freeland aims to stop a gas station project and place a moratorium on further business development until a planning process now under way is completed.The group calls itself PROUD (People for Reasonable, Organized Urban Development). Its initial aim is to stop a gas station and commercial building development slated for the corner of Fish Road and Highway 525.Spokesman Jerry Hill said more than 500 signatures have been gathered on a petition opposing the gas station, which the county has approved if certain conditions are met.PROUD is appealing the county's approval to the Island County Hearing Examiner. A hearing is scheduled for June 15. The official appellant is the Whidbey Environmental Action Network, but Hill said it is being done on behalf of PROUD.One PROUD member, Herb Hunt, has been active in the county-appointed Freeland Subarea Planning Committee. Although not a member, Hunt, an architect, hosts a subcommittee meeting weekly at his Main Street office.I'd like Freeland to be planned out, Hunt said. Not stop development -- just plan. PROUD fears that the county will approve other developments before the planning process is finished, thereby foreclosing the planning options that this group is working on, as a news release states.Tom Roehl is chairman of the planning committee. He said Tuesday that committee members could decide to ask for a moratorium, but he's personally against such a move. It's not a very practical idea, he said. Further development on the controversial south side of the highway where the gas station complex is planned is unlikely, he said. What's happened has already happened, he said. It's overkill to impose a moratorium. The planning process is likely to continue for at least a year, he added.However, Steve Shapiro, another committee member, supports the moratorium idea. It makes a lot of sense, he said Tuesday, expressing concern that any Freeland plan the committee produces could be undermined by projects approved during the planning process. He said a moratorium has been discussed by the planning committee, but the idea has been pooh-poohed by Tom Roehl and Phil Bakke.Bakke, Island County planning director, was unaware Tuesday that the PROUD group had formed and would seek a Freeland moratorium. The controversial gas station, he noted, is very reflective of the existing zoning envisioned by the Planning Committee. The committee has no power to impose a moratorium, but Bakke said if members support one, they could ask him to transmit that opinion to the Island County commissioners who would have the final say.The committee's next meeting is Wednesday, June 7, at 7 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church."

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