Final Freeland code workshop Monday

A nearly decade-long effort to create development regulations in Freeland is nearing its end, with or without sewer.

The Island County Planning Commission will hold what’s anticipated to be the last workshop on the draft code at 2 p.m. Monday, March 11 in the commissioner’s hearing room. Sections covering screening, parking, lighting and building design standards will be discussed.

Senior Long Range Planner Beckye Frey said staff members are aiming for an early April public hearing on the final version.

Freeland has held a non-municipal urban growth area designation for years with the intent of encouraging most of Island County’s growth to happen in urban growth areas, as mandated by the Growth Management Act. The regulations are meant to provide a framework to control what that growth will look like moving forward. The document includes phases that stay within septic capacity and allow an increase in density should a sewer system become available.

Building design standards and other regulations are aimed at creating a pedestrian-oriented, “village character,” Frey said. The new rules will only affect new developments and commercial properties undergoing significant remodels.

“You’ll start to see the community slowly work towards the character it wants,” Frey said.

The regulations reflect input received in dozens of workshops, planning commission meetings and comments received by email and over the phone. Most requests centered around a balance between predictability and flexibility in how certain districts will look.

There will be options for acceptable storefronts, lighting and sign usage in the Business Village and Business General districts. Planning staff “tested” the applicability of the regulations with six proposals for development and refined the code to ensure it’s still fulfilling its intent without being too burdensome.

“This has been an extremely collaborative process,” Frey said. “The community has developed the standards and fine-tuned the standards in a way that’s been extremely hands-on.”

Many of the changes made throughout the final stages of the process have been to make the rules easier to understand and follow, she said. Most of the major changes from the last draft to the most recent one involved condensing information and increasing flexibility of the standards. For instance to meet screening standards, certain uses can add a pedestrian pathway or pedestrian-oriented open space instead of installing a wall. This option was added to both fulfill the intent of keeping Freeland “walkable” and adding flexibility to the screening rules.

Planning commission members will decide Monday when and if the document will move forward in the process. Planning staff proposed holding the public hearing during an evening meeting either April 1 or April 8.

• More information and the most recent draft regulations can be found at www.islandcountywa.gov/planning

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