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Friends buy Freeland commercial land

"A group seeking to guarantee a measured approach to development in Freeland made certain Friday that 18 acres of commercial-zoned land near the area's business district will never be blacktopped or become a construction site.After failing to acquire the land with a winning bid in an auction last month, the Friends of Freeland signed a purchase agreement Friday to buy the land outright. The auction bid of $275,000 was rejected by the property owner, Chris Kelly, just days after the action, forcing the Friends to go to the negotiating table.Friends member Herb Hunt said Monday that pursuant to the purchase agreement, he can say little about the land sale. He would not disclose a purchase price for the land, saying that it, like a number of other portions of the deal, are still being negotiated.Nonetheless, he said he and the other Friends are celebrating the signing.It's a great community to be able to do this, Hunt said. We're pretty excited about it.The 18 acres includes a large wetland and the log house Kelly and his family call home. Hunt said the Friends hope to convert the land - which is situated between Scott and Newman roads - into a nature park and community center. The conversion, he said, will not involve the construction of more buildings on the land.When the land went up for auction last month, the Friends decided to try to purchase it in order to preserve some of the natural lands in Freeland. Large commercial and residential developments are currently being built on both sides of the acreage.What we're seeing here is the need for balance, Hunt said.Hundreds of South Whidbey people have donated to the Friends cause and have raised enough money to buy the land. "

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