Freeland planners envision future

Like long trains traveling on parallel tracks, Freeland's comprehensive land use and sewer plans are chugging along toward the end of the line.

Rolling along close behind the two is a smaller but no less important element of Freeland's future according to planners. That element is a vision statement.

Driving both are the Freeland Sub Area Planning Committee, Island County's planning staff, the Freeland Water District and engineers from Tetra Tech KCM.

The engineers are taking care of the comprehensive sewer plan at this point, but planners and committee members want the public to comment on the land use plan.

During last week's meeting of the Freeland Sub Area Planning Committee in Freeland, Jeff Tate, an Island County planner, identified sections of the land use plan that were recently rewritten by county staff. A draft of the document land use plan has been a work in progress for several years by the committee, other community volunteers and planners.

"This most recent draft includes 10 to 12 sections which have been vastly rewritten," Tate told the volunteer planning body. "The county may be the author of the words, but the ideas were born out of committee work. We want the plan to reflect the community."

The land use and sewer plans both have a lot of pages and a lot of chapters that seem to have not much in common. Tate said that is where the vision statement comes in.

"It is only now coming to fruition. It has been an evolving process."

Tate said rather than beginning with a vision statement four years ago, sub-area planning committee members made a decision to get into the nuts and bolts of the planning process -- like sewers and zoning -- to acquire the knowledge to develop a vision statement.

Four years ago, Island County charged the communities of Freeland and Clinton with the task of developing comprehensive land-use plans. Designated as a rural area of increased development, or RAIDs, sub-area committees in both towns began to study the possibility of Freeland and Clinton adopting non-municipal urban growth area designations. The Clinton committee dissolved in 2001, but the Freeland committee is still working.

The county's plan calls for more than half the projected population growth South Whidbey to be in Freeland and Clinton by the year 2020. The city of Langley is also planning to absorb some of that growth.

But since Freeland is designated an rural area of intense development, or RAID, it would have no local control over how its growth occurs. That responsibility would go to the county.

Freeland would also lack the ability to provide city services, such as sewer and water. But by working toward the NMUGA designation, Tate said, Freeland -- much like a city -- can take charge of the growth taking place inside its borders.

The multiple tracks of planning Freeland's future will be further discussed at a public workshop on May 10.

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