Clueless in Freeland

Here is some free advice for the residents of Clinton, Bayview and even Greenbank: Never, never, consider changing from a Rural Area of Intense Development (RAID) to a non-municipal urban growth area (NMUGA).

If you are approached by your commissioner to form a committee to study the possibility, and if you are told you are being directed to do so because of the Growth Management Act, run away as fast as you can. You have no clue what you are getting into and will have no clue as to what happened after you get out.

After years of delay, Freeland is now an NMUGA.

I participated in the process and am now clueless as to what was accomplished. The first development proposal, or at least the first large one, in the new NMUGA is for a 24,000-square-foot warehouse next to the Freeland Library. Despite the fact that warehouses are expressly prohibited in the Freeland Sub Area Plan – the citizen-committee generated document that contains the goals and policies the people of Freeland would like to see accomplished – the county gets to ignore the goals and policies during this “interim phase.”

The plan is an element of the Island County Comprehensive Plan, but the commissioners, in adopting the resolution making Freeland an NMUGA, also adopted a “finding” that in its own convoluted way says that the county planning and development department is exempt from having to use the plan.

Oh, the finding says that the planners should work to find common solutions between the existing comprehensive plan and the Freeland Plan, but if there are inconsistencies the existing comprehensive plan will be used.

This is despite an ordinance that says if there are conflicts between existing county code and the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan of which the Freeland plan is part, the comprehensive plan will control.

Are you as clueless now as I am?

Is this any way to properly govern Freeland?

In effect, Freeland is now a city. Commissioner Phil Bakke is our Mayor and Commissioners Mac McDowell and John Dean are the city council. Jeff Tate is the city manager. What do you think of their governance of our city?

Many of us are asking the commissioners and the planning director to act quickly and close this gaping hole that allows for development in Freeland while ignoring the goals and policies of the Freeland plan. They have the power to do so. They have the ability to remove this finding and replace it with one that directs the planning department to use the Freeland plan to prevent future non-conforming development.

There have been enough substantive public comments submitted in opposition to the proposed Freeland warehouse that it is not within the realm of comprehension that the planning director would approve the proposal.

But what about the next one? Who’s minding the store and what rules are they observing? Is the Freeland public comfortable in the knowledge that their goals and policies are being carried out? I don’t know, as I am clueless.

Do you know? Are you willing to read every legal notice of application and monitor development proposals in Freeland so that we can have a community uproar when the next non-conforming use application is submitted to the county planning and development department?

I am beginning to wonder why the word “community” is in Island County Planning and Community Development Department. As a matter of fact, if you removed “planning and community” from the department name you would be left with Island County Development Department.

It really saddens me to think that, as I have had many good experiences participating in the Freeland Sub Area Planning meetings. I, along with many others, thought I was helping our county government create community-supported plans for the development and growth of a better future for Freeland. I’m clueless as to how the county managed to miss that glaring fact.

Until the issues of this finding are corrected, however, I will remain clueless as to the future of Freeland.

What do you have to say to the commissioners about it?

Lou Malzone is a community activist and Freeland resident since 2003.