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Report sees growth for Freeland

Island County planners who have been gazing into a crystal ball to predict Freeland's growth in the next two decades are finding zoning will make a difference, but not that much.

Charged with developing a "buildable lands analysis" for the South Whidbey town, planners Jeff Tate and Joe Bucar voiced their predictions Thursday to the Freeland Sub-Area Planning Committee.

After months of work, the pair came up with two different scenarios, one using current zoning and another under a non-municipal urban growth area, or NMUGA, designation. A NMUGA would allow Freeland to operate much like a city while under Island County jurisdiction. This analysis, along with a sewer study, is a requirement of the planning process.

Under its current zoning as a rural area of intensive development, or RAID, Freeland could wind up with 3.89 to 6.37 houses per acre and a total population of 4,125 to 6,760 by 2022, according to the planners. As a NMUGA, that would be 4 to 6.8 houses per acre and 4,289 to 7,205 total residents.

Portions of Freeland, such as Holmes Harbor, Harbor Sands, are already subdivided into high-density areas, though not to the level of city density. Density numbers in a city can be 20 dwellings per acre, according to the county planners.

The planners' analysis is a draft, a collection of all previous reports as well as the more comprehensive analysis of future projections with the NMUGA planning scenario. But Tate said even projected figures say something about what sort of planning the area might need in the next few years.

"If Freeland becomes an NMUGA there will be greater densities and growth potential and a stormwater runoff and sewer system," Tate said.

This is only a second draft of the analysis. Tate said there here will be more revisions and changes based on questions asked by the sub-area planning committee members. The plan is essentially a buildout estimate that attempts to predict how much growth is possible given existing land and the potential for new buildable parcels in Freeland.

Tate said the analysis focuses on the population potential for residential and land use designations.

Committee members had some comments up front at the meeting.

Committee member Rick Brown said the analysis needs a scenario including a sewer system, since many parcels in Freeland cannot be developed presently because they are unsuitable for septic systems.

Chairman Tom Roehl pointed out the report doesn't factor in people's motives and plans for their property.

"Some people just won't want to develop their acreage," he said.

Addressing Brown's comment, Roehl the technology in the septic field is rapidly catching up so that perkability may not be such a factor.

Committee member Jerry Robilard said it's useful to look at Freeland's demographics as part of the planning process.

"It appears the population is getter grayer," he said. "We have more retired people than working people. Apartments, which produce more density, attract working people but we don't have the jobs here to attract that segment of the population."

Roehl said that may be a moot point because land prices are so high that few businesses are looking to locate here

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