Photo provided

Process to update long-awaited Freeland development regulations begins

After years of envisioning growth rules for the Freeland Subarea Plan, Island County is moving closer to laying the framework of its long-awaited development regulations.

The Island County Planning Commission met Monday and discussed criteria that will determine how the non-municipal urban growth area (UGA) develops in the future. The hope is to implement rules that will retain Freeland’s “village” character and create a pedestrian-oriented village center. County architects of the document are also making clear that incorporation isn’t part of the plan.

“It’s an urban growth area, but it’s not going to be a city,” said Beckye Frey, a senior long range planner with the county.

Freeland was designated a UGA years ago but its development rules were never updated and currently reflect those of a rural area of intense development, also known as a RAID. With an urban designation, residents and business owners in the area can expect some changes.

“There’s definitely some choices that are going to be available; we’re definitely encouraging some alternative housing styles,” Frey said.

The density allowed per acre will increase.

For example, a medium-density district is proposed to allow five to 12 dwellings per acre. Under the new rules, cottage-style housing would also be an option instead of just one large single-family dwelling on a piece of land, she said.

The development rules will also make zoning more flexible and responsive to the market, Frey said. If the proposed changes are implemented, the review process for zoning permits will be faster and easier.

The Planning Commission also wants to be able to provide options for how buildings can look in the business village to avoid all of the buildings being constructed in the same style but to maintain a degree of predictability.

“I don’t know a lot about Freeland, but it’s a new ballgame so to speak, and some flexibility is needed,” said Val Hillers, a member of the Island County Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission is dependent on the public being involved in the process to ensure the criteria reflect the community’s vision for Freeland, Frey said.

During Monday’s meeting, a few members of the public raised concerns over the proposed criteria.

“I’ve been jumping out of my seat with frustration during this last discussion, because all these wonderful points that have been made concerning Freeland, (it’s) terribly, terribly important that zoning include critical areas,” said Marianne Edain, a representative of the Whidbey Environmental Action Network (WEAN), an environmental advocacy group.

Steve Erickson, also a member of WEAN, asked for wildlife corridors to be a priority.

Frey said she and other planning staff have looked at addressing such concerns, but some of them might be more appropriate to approach at the site plan level or with public works. Over the next weeks staff will be working to create zoning criteria to eventually present to the Island County Board of Commissioners.

Freeland’s code will be discussed at the next planning commission meeting on Sept. 11.

Photo provided

More in News

Advisory Board holding public hearing on draft short-term rental ordinance

What rules should apply to homeowners who rent out houses, rooms or… Continue reading

Island County seeking District 1 applicants for planning commission

The Island County Board of Commissioners is seeking applicants from District 1,… Continue reading

Whidbey Community Foundation Receives $10K for census work

Whidbey Community Foundation received $10,000 in funding from the Washington Census Equity… Continue reading

WICA announces auditions for 20th season

The 2019-20 season marks Whidbey Island Center for the Arts’ 20th theater… Continue reading

Hands off the baby seals

Advocates for marine mammals are making their annual pitch to beach watchers… Continue reading

Former bank employee sentenced for theft

A former employee at an Oak Harbor bank was sentenced to jail… Continue reading

Commission OKs changes to fall bear-hunting rules

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved changes to the fall bear-hunting… Continue reading

Earthquake felt on Whidbey Island

People across Whidbey Island were awakened by an earthquake early Friday morning.… Continue reading

Conservation District looks at ‘rates and charges’ system

Whidbey Island Conservation District officials are considering going to a different kind… Continue reading

Most Read