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Planning group opposes increase in building size

What’s right for Bayview and Ken’s Korner is not OK for Freeland when it comes to building size. That’s what six members of the now disbanded Freeland Sub Area Planning Committee said this week. A proposal to increase commercial building sizes in Freeland and Clinton to 50,000 square feet brought six of the nine Freeland sub area planning committee members together long enough to draft a statement opposing the proposal.

On Tuesday, Steve Shapiro read a prepared statement from the majority of committee members into the record at the Island County Planning Commission hearing. The planning commission is proposing to repeal the Island County code that restricts commercial building sizes in Rural center RAIDS, or Rural Areas of Intense Development, in Clinton and Freeland.

Jim Short, former chairman of the committee, said during a recent interview that committee members felt it was important to make a statement on this issue.

“It is contrary to what we understand to be the wishes of the people of Freeland,” he said.

The county’s proposal states that buildings up to 50,000 square feet are allowed at Bayview and Ken’s Corner, so the same limit should apply to Freeland and Clinton.

“This is just wrong,” Shapiro read into the record at the hearing.

He said Bayview and Ken’s Korner RAIDs both included existing shopping centers when the Growth Management Hearings Board directed that measures be taken to maintain the “character of the existing area” within the Freeland and Clinton RAIDs.

“By no stretch of the imagination is the character of Freeland or Clinton anything like that of Ken’s Korner or Bayview,” Shapiro said.

The planning department seeks to increase the maximum building size to 50,000 feet of floor area. Currently, 27,000 square feet is the limit on commercial structures in Freeland, and 14,000 square feet is the limit in the Clinton RAID.

According to the Island County Planning Department, the purpose of the increase in size is to help local businesses provide essential services in both areas. This change will meet the goals and policies of Island County’s Comprehensive Plan and state Growth Management Act.

John Coleman, planner for the county said no decision has been made yet. “The planning commission will hear more testimony on June 7.”

Coleman said the proposal to increase the size of commercial buildings came about because of some interest fro local businesses.

The county’s reasoning is some essential services in these two major economic areas are not being full met as a result of building limitations. The proposal does not identify which services are lacking.

Freeland committee member Shapiro said legally the proposal, if adopted, would likely trigger a legal challenge on the grounds that it violates the directive of the Growth Management Hearings Board that states, “Any development or redevelopment in terms of building size, scale, use or intensity shall be consistent with the character of the existing area.”

The Freeland committee worked for four years, beginning in January 1999, to create a draft Freeland Sub-Area Comprehensive plan which recommended that Freeland become a Non-Municipal Urban Growth Area, or NMUGA.

Short said the planning commission is seeking to change the code even though they haven’t considered the proposed plan they forwarded to them in May 2004.

Signing the statement were Short, Shapiro, Herb Hunt, Rocky Knickerbocker

Chuck Edwards and Rick Brown. Three former committee members, Carmen Falso, Ray Gabelein and Bryan Nichols did not sign the statement.

Mike Helland, former member of the Clinton Sub Area Planning Committee, said his group did not craft a formal statement on the issue.

“My personal view is that those buildings, 50,000 or larger, should be decided on a case-by-case basis and sited in appropriate areas where there is community support.”

Clinton’s planning group voted to remain a RAID.

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