Freeland regulations finally adopted

Freeland’s future growth is now regulated by standards created through more than a decade of work.

“It’s a banner day to have this public hearing,” Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said Tuesday.

The Island County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the non-municipal urban growth area’s new “growth phasing plan” at a regular meeting, and it went into effect immediately. The document provides design regulations that will apply to new developments and major renovations. It also creates new zoning districts.

The idea is to maintain a pedestrian-oriented, “rural village character,” Senior Planner Beckye Frey previously said.

Seeing Freeland as a natural place to encourage growth within the county while complying with the state Growth Management Act, commissioners designated it as a UGA in 2007.

Draft regulations for what the growth would look like began in 2009, but work was postponed multiple times.

The newly adopted standards offer options to comply with requirements around screening, lighting, parking, signs and other issues. The code will allow for alternatives to the choices provided in some cases if the intent of the document is met.

Commissioner Jill Johnson directed staff Tuesday to track the amount of staff time it takes to review added regulations. She said if there’s additional cost in another area to review design standards, it should be equitable in the other parts of the county.

Frey has said as she worked with community members on creating the from-scratch code, it was clear people wanted flexibility as well as predictability.

Because the code is brand new, it will be reviewed in three years to determine its effectiveness.

Price Johnson said the document will serve as a model for future code cleanup and design, especially in the way it uses figures and tables to make it easier to understand.

“I think it sets a great example of how we can be much more transparent about what we’re asking of people and what we’re expecting of them,” she said.

There are phased density increases that would be implemented if Freeland were to get a sewer system. The Freeland Water and Sewer District, however, has halted work to bring sewer to the area because of the high cost of the project.

Johnson recognized her colleague Price Johnson Tuesday for “championing” the project for so long.

“It’s the people who live and work in Freeland who have done the biggest lift here,” Price Johnson said shortly before adoption. ” … I think this is a really important step forward for Freeland and for Island County’s comprehensive plan.”

The new code language can be found at www.islandcountywa.gov/planning

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