Freeland plans SR 525 corridor

"Photo:Drivers on the highway through Freeland will still see its rural character, if planners can realize their vision.Jim Larsen, staff photoHighway 525 through Freeland to retain their pastoral, water and mountain views, even as growth along the highway is occurring.At least that is the vision of the Freeland Subarea Planning Committee, which met last week to entertain ideas on how to control development along the highway.Members quickly backed a proposal from Phil Bakke, Island County planning director, calling for something that in the language of plannerese is called a highway/scenic corridor overlay. In summary, in this area developers will have special rules to follow in order to ensure that the SR 525 corridor through Freeland is a welcoming gateway to the Freeland area, as Bakke wrote.We need guidance, Bakke told the committee members. What are you trying to accomplish? The highway overlay will become part of the Freeland community plan the committee has been charged by the Island County commissioners with preparing.Discussion began at the state's existing right-of-way, which is 50 feet each side of the highway center line, according to Tom Roehl, chairman of the committee. Members decided that the community would like to landscape within that area, and provide a bicycle and walking path like the Kettles Trail along the highway in Coupeville. Bakke will talk to state officials about how to make it happen.In addition, the highway planning overlay will be much broader than the state right-of-way. The panel seemed to support Rocky Knickerbocker's suggestion that it be 550 feet wide, or 275 feet on each side of the center of the state right-of-way. Generally that's the center line of the highway, but in places it meanders, according to Roehl.Steve Shapiro recommended that planning in the area start from this admittedly idealistic bottom line: We want to see nothing but scenic vistas and vegetation, he said. Special rules calling for such things as berms and landscaping around new housing developments and businesses would aim to achieve that goal, or something close to it.There was general talk that the highway zone would also require new lighting, signage and utility rules to keep the views intact.This is good, said Bakke, commending the group for its work. The planning department will take those ideas and add them to the community's plan. The public will also be able to comment during an upcoming open house, the date of which has yet to be set."

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