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Clouds part for Freeland Sunny View project with water OK
A 26-unit affordable housing development proposed in Freeland cleared a major hurdle this week.
The Freeland Water and Sewer District issued a water availability letter for Sunny View Village, a $6.3 million project planned for a nearly nine-acre lot off Fish Road, between Highway 525 and Scenic Avenue.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Teri Anania, executive director of the Island County Housing Authority, the organization building Sunny View Village. “I’m thrilled. It’s been a long time coming.”
“We still have a public comment period, but this was the last big hurdle for us to get going,” she added.
Up until Monday, the project was stalled due to funding headaches connected with a water district policy. It requires developers to pay for water availability letters upfront. The problem is that many lending agencies and state grant holders won’t deliver funds until after they are officially assured there is sufficient water to service the proposed development.
Housing Authority officials and project leaders attended a water district meeting in March and pleaded for an exemption. The commissioners refused to do so outright, though they did grant an exemption for another customer with the same problem — for a single family home — at the very same meeting.
The board did, however, agree to search for a resolution. According to water district Manager Andy Campbell, that was found with Sunny View Village’s lender, which submitted a voucher assuring payment was secured.
“That sufficed with the commissioners to let this move forward,” Campbell said.
The board voted unanimously to waive the policy and issue the permit at the their regular monthly meeting Monday, April 14. Relevant project designs were also recently submitted to Campbell for review, which he said was also a needed step in issuing the letter.
“We can’t commit to provide water to a project if we don’t know what they are going to do,” he said.
While Anania described the letter as a major hurdle now cleared, the project still has a few more steps before construction can begin.
The Housing Authority must still receive a building permit from the county. In a Thursday email to The Record, Michelle Pezley, associate planner with Island County Planning and Community Development, wrote that a site plan review decision would happen within the next two weeks. A 14-day appeal period will follow.
“If the county does not receive an appeal for the site plan review, the Housing Authority of Island County will be able to pick up the building permits for Sunny View Village shortly after the appeal period,” Pezley wrote.
Once that’s complete, the Housing Authority still must enter into a developer extension agreement with the water district. According to Campbell, it’s essentially a contract that requires the organization to build the necessary infrastructure to connect to district’s water supply, then turn over ownership of the improvements to the public utility.
“Once all that’s done, we turn on the water,” he said.
The Housing Authority is hoping to break ground as soon as June, but the date is not firm, Anania said.