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Freeland plan attracts crowd

"If there was any doubt that Freeland residents care about their community it was dispelled Thursday night at a planning open house.More than 150 people swarmed to Trinity Lutheran Church to learn what the Freeland Subarea Planning Committee has been doing for the last year, and to provide public input on various aspects of planning.The nine-member committee was appointed by the Island County Commissioners two years ago to produce a community plan for Freeland. Supplemented by a host of other volunteers led by designer Herb Hunt, the committee was ready for the crowd. They assembled in the church sanctuary for introductions and a video by Robbie Cribbs, with a soundtrack by his sister, singer-songwriter Janie Cribbs. Cribbs said she wrote the song Save Yourself with Joe Reggiatore, and it is available on her latest CD at Joe's Island Music. The video cuts flashes of Fred Meyer and other businesses associated with rampant development into the pastoral highway scenes in Freeland, and serves as a warning of what unplanned growth can lead to.Many maps and charts were on display, but the most telling showed how the 108 acres of downtown business property have developed since 1950. Last year alone, over 18 percent of that acreage was developed in an unprecedented building boom. Only 25 percent is left to be developed.Committee member Steve Shapiro kept the focus on planning by telling the audience that two controversial subjects were off the table: the new Exxon gas station complex and the possibility of Freeland becoming a city. Nothing precludes that possibility, but the issue is not on the table tonight, he said of cityhood.The crowd then participated in a 90-minute game of non-musical tables, rotating among six issue tables: design review, capital facilities and utilities, parks and public places, critical areas, traffic circulation, and the Highway 525 corridor.After those one-and-a-half hours of talk, the crowd returned to the sanctuary to hear reports from each discussion leader. Here are some of the dominant themes:* Develop more parks, and create a system of walkways to connect the parks and other public places.* Promote water recharge areas, conservation of water, and consolidate wells.* Allow high densities in certain areas to make housing affordable for teachers and others with modest incomes.* Make downtown more pedestrian friendly with sidewalks; move the businesses to the front and put the parking lots in back. Incentives could be given developers to encourage building according to the plan.* Put a community plan in effect soon, before everything disappears, as one person said.* Provide for transit and an area shuttle for in-town transportation.* Adopt design review and landscaping criteria.* Protect private property rights. Some people at the meeting had already had their land downzoned one or more times.* Promote town character, rather than adopting a theme.* Protect the scenic corridor status of Highway 525 route's through Freeland.Committee members were appreciative of the big turnout. We've proven we care about the community, said Shapiro.For the next two months, the Subarea Committee will meet the second, third and fourth Thursday at 7 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran. Meetings are open to the public.The volunteers group meets each Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Hunt Brothers office on Main Street. The public is welcome there, too.Committee chairman Tom Roehl asked for a show of hands to see how many who attended Thursday night's meeting owned property in the planning area. Many hands shot up, and Roehl seemed impressed. At prior meetings, he said, there had been a paucity of people that own land in the planning area. "

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