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EIS comments in hand, county planners work at Freeland changes

Freeland resident Mitch Streicher is concerned about the zoning of the area known as Freeland Hill. The 10-acre parcel of forested hillside behind the library is zoned for one house per five acres. But if Freeland is designated a non-municipal urban growth area, or NMUGA, the number could increase to four to six homes per acre, or a total of 40 to 60 units.

That’s something Streicher and a number of his neighbors on Pleasant View Lane don’t want to happen.

Streicher said residents on Pleasant View would be severely impacted by traffic from the hill. He said with that many houses per acre it could become a site for multi-family units.

“Pleasant View is a cul de sac now with no through access or sidewalks,” he said.

Streicher recently sent these comments and concerns to the Island County Planning Department for inclusion in an environmental impact statement, or EIS.

In addition to traffic volumes and congestion, comments from other Freeland area residents related to population density, water quality and runoff and concern for wetlands and wildlife habitat.

During the month-long comment period which ended Oct. 7, the planning department received a total of 20 written comments from citizens and two from state government about issues affecting growth and development in the Freeland area.

Called the scoping process, the comment period allowed Freeland residents to give Island County their thoughts on the EIS, which is currently being crafted by planners.

According to Adam Flamiatos, a planner with Island County, these comments will give tell the planning department which issues are important to Freeland residents to ensure inclusion in the EIS. This EIS is not related to any specific project, such as the proposed sewer development in Freeland’s downtown area.

“This does not stop environmental review,” he said. “It is not a free ticket for development.”

County planners are currently working on a draft EIS, which will be made available for a 30-day comment period and presented to the public during at least two public meetings. At the same time, the Freeland Comprehensive Plan will be open for comment.

During the recent scoping process, other public comments addressed the health of area wetlands and protection of wildlife habitat. In addition, Flamiatos said the governor’s office wants information about water runoff especially as it relates to Puget Sound included in this EIS.

Following the comment period in November on the draft EIS, planners will have two options: To issue the final draft or craft a supplement based on the comments and complexities of public concerns.

There will be public hearings on the draft EIS and the Freeland Comprehensive plan when they go to the Island County Planning Commission in early 2005.

Flamiatos, says the hope is to present the final plans to the Board of Island County Commissioners sometime during spring 2005.

In May 2004, the Freeland Sub Area Planning Commission forwarded the comprehensive plan and comments to county planners with the recommendation that Freeland be designated a non-municipal urban growth area, or NMUGA. The planning commission will make its own recommendation to county commissioners on whether Freeland should have a NMUGA designation. Ultimately, it will be the commissioners who make the final decision.

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