Venting erupts regarding Freeland

What was expected to be a routine public hearing turned into a forum that several South Whidbey residents used to express their frustration with the temporary rules that regulate development in Freeland.

With the three county commissioners listening, residents rattled off a litany of concerns centering on the lengthy process they say has hampered their ability to develop or sell their property.

Attorney Linda Moore, representing Whidbey Telecom, said that the emergency ordinance under consideration would be illegal and her clients may sue the county. In a written statement, she said the emergency ordinance violates the Growth Management Act and should be invalidated. She alleged the emergency ordinance prohibits entire land use categories that have been part of Island County law since 1998. She didn’t specify what project Whidbey Telecom is concerned about.

Commissioners John Dean, Angie Homola and Helen Price Johnson ultimately approved the six-month interim regulations during Monday’s regular meeting. It was explained that the need for the interim rules stems from the Freeland Sub Area Plan, which needed revision because it’s inconsistent with current development regulations.

Moore’s business partner, Leigh Anderson, said the six-month time limit isn’t long enough to incorporate the plan into new regulations.

Freeland resident Al Peyser, who owns commercial property in the unincorporated town, said the interim ordinance will just make things more confusing.

“I’m kind of stunned at what I’m hearing today,” Peyser said, adding he is also surprised at the mounting costs of the proposed sewer system that will serve the area. Currently the cost is estimated to run $32 million.

Further, Peyser said the cost and time involved to permit a building will discourage him from developing in Freeland.

“I’m frankly scared to death to ever develop another building in Freeland,” Peyser said, urging the county to operate in a way that is friendlier to developers.

Freeland business owner Richard Soto also questioned the escalating costs of the sewer system, which he said is important for a residential development he wants to build.

“It’s really about the infrastructure,” Soto said.

Not everyone present was complaining.

Dean Enell, Goss Lake resident, former Island County commissioner candidate and present Port of South Whidbey commissioner candidate, spoke in favor of the interim ordinance.

“The best reason to adopt the ordinance is because it’s what the people want,” Enell said, adding that Freeland has been burdened by a “no regulations here philosophy.”

“Make sure no development takes place that is inconsistent with the goals of the Freeland Sub Area Plan,” Enell said.

Commissioner Dean empathized with the residents attending the Monday meeting.

“There’s a long, tortuous history with this whole process,” Dean said.

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