Adoption of Freeland zoning code likely delayed

Adoption of an updated Freeland zoning code, which has been in the works for almost 20 years, has been delayed.

Island County planning staff had aimed to put the new codes that would reflect Freeland’s urban growth area designation on the books by the end of September.

Beckye Frey, senior long range planner heading the project, told the Island County Planning Commission Monday that it is unlikely the regulations will be adopted by the end of 2018. A staff member at the prosecuting attorney’s office who had been aiding in the development of the code left her position in Island County recently. Assistant Planning Director Beverly Mesa Zendt said the board of commissioners has also requested that major changes not be introduced during the holiday season.

Although Frey said staff is doing its best to complete the document before the new year, it is likely to be pushed until just after the beginning of 2019. She said a final determination on its timeline will be made by the end of September.

However, an updated draft of the regulations will be published online within the next few weeks, she said.

The new draft will incorporate the most recent feedback staff has received. In the last two years, Frey said she’s received hundreds of comments on the sub-area plan, which creates design standards and zoning districts to allow Freeland to grow as a non-municipal urban growth area.

The gears on this project started turning much earlier, however. The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board issued a compliance order in 2000 for Freeland that stated the county should begin the processes of designating the unincorporated area as a UGA. The 20-year plan for Freeland allows for more growth, but is not aimed at making it a city.

“We’re not creating a new Oak Harbor,” Frey told the planning commission Monday.

The design standards were created to allow “predictability and flexibility” in the way Freeland grows. After years of conducting stakeholder interviews, holding workshops and reading submitted comments, staff determined the community wanted to maintain a “walkable rural village” character.

The standards create new districts and design standards and intents to be able to control how new developments look to an extent.

“The code is extremely flexible, but the outcomes are predictable,” Frey said.

The zoning districts and design standards will go into effect immediately after adoption. The language in the document addresses that density can’t increase unless a sewer system is installed. The Growth Management Act requires that urban areas plan for urban services, such as sewer, but there are certain situations in which UGAs may exist without them, as long as growth stays within septic capacity.

The standards will also require that new site plans allow for a potential increase in density, but do not require that the increase actually happen.

Details about the Freeland sub area plan can be found on the planning department’s website, island countywa.gov/planning.

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