Ebey’s Landing, Freeland top planners’ to-do list

The Island County Planning Commission will tackle a series of high-interest issues this year that include regulations to guide development in both Freeland and Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

The most interesting subject of all, it seems, is mini-storage. The commission is going to address county regulations that govern where the aesthetically-challenged structures may be built.

“Mini storage, more than any other activity that flows through our office, is the one thing that causes the most controversy and causes the most public comments,” outgoing Planning Director Jeff Tate said at the meeting, which was his last. “They are always appealed, it seems.”

Absent from the docket, however, was the contested accident potential zone, or APZ, regulations on North Whidbey. The regulations limit land use in areas within the flight pattern of aircraft from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Tate said the planning commission and planning department will be involved in “APZ outreach” to continue discussing the issue, but it’s unclear where the talks will lead.

Commissioner Angie Homola, however, said she hopes that the APZ issue may still be added to the planning commission’s docket later this year. She suggested that the language of the ordinance could be “tweaked” to alleviate concerns of landowners.

Tate presented a docket, which is the list of items the planning commission is scheduled to accomplish this year. He developed the list in consultation with the commissioners and the planning commission approved it Friday:

• Freeland development regulations. The commissioners adopted interim regulations last year for the non-municipal urban growth area. The sub area plan will guide the creation of permanent development regulations.

•Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve development regulations. The county, Coupeville and the reserve manager are working together on design regulations, an illustrated design guide and the possibility of a joint design-review process for development in the Central Whidbey reserve.

•Affordable housing. Tate said the county’s affordable housing element of the comprehensive plan will be improved to include better defined goals.

•Mini-storage. Development regulations may limit where the facilities can be built.

• Parks plan. The plans needs to be updated so that the county will be eligible for parks-related grants.

•Rezone request. The county received one application for a “sponsored” amendment to the comprehensive plan. Tate said the owner of land on the north end of Oak Harbor wants the land-use designation to be changed from residential to planned industrial park.

• Essential public facilities. Tate proposed regulations governing essential public facilities, which include schools and airports, be changed to allow them in rural forest zones.

• Utility segregation. Tate said Snohomish County PUD wants to build a facility on Camano Island.

After the docket items are finished, Tate said the commission can begin working on the fish and wildlife update of the critical areas ordinance. That work will continue into next year.

In addition, Tate said the planning commission will work on several non-docket items, including public notice requirements, an optional determination of non-significance process and a low-impact development ordinance.

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