County tightens Freeland zoning

Heads off some development

The Island County Commissioners approved an interim ordinance Monday aimed at heading off any last minute development efforts in Freeland that could run contrary to goals and policies set out in the non-municipal urban growth area’s sub area plan.

The sub area plan is a policy document that guides the creation of development regulations, which are used to evaluate site-specific development proposals. The regulations will serve as a standard against which each proposed project can be held.

The interim ordinance emphasized the immediacy required to prevent future development approvals that are inconsistent with the sub area plan. The urgency constituted an “emergency.”

A storage building has been proposed near the Freeland Library, and that use has stirred up public opposition in the area.

Planning Director Jeff Tate said the county is currently working under three separate zoning regulations: rural zone, rural residential and rural center. Each category carries with it permitted or conditionally-permitted land uses.

The Rural zone, designed to provide for a variety of rural lifestyles, is the principal land use classification in the county. Within the Freeland growth area, the interim ordinance disallows uses like constructing equestrian centers in rural and commercial areas. Storage facilities were also regulated in regular business and residential areas. Country inns, animal shelters and gun clubs were among other uses affected by the emergency action.

Planners reportedly scrutinized the highly specific uses listed under the existing county regulations and compared them to the general uses laid out in the sub area plan. The results prompted the county to remove incongruous uses set by the sub area plan.

“It’s a little challenging because it establishes policies, not depth,” Tate said of the sub area plan. “It’s very general in nature.”

Commissioners Mac McDowell, John Dean and Phil Bakke took Tate’s advice and passed an emergency ordinance that immediately went into effect Monday. The special ordinance does not require a public hearing before being approved.

Tate said, however, a public hearing must be held within 60 days of the ordinance’s approval. The county set a hearing for June 9 in Freeland’s Trinity Lutheran Church.

Bakke, Tate’s predecessor as planning head before he was appointed county commissioner, initially requested the change to avoid any permits being issued that would be in non-conformance with Freeland’s sub area plan.

Planning regulations are now under the umbrella of the interim control ordinance. With some land uses no longer allowed, Tate and Bakke both said they anticipate plenty of public testimony and feedback regarding a process the planning director acknowledged as subjective.

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