Parks tops list of Island County planning priorities

Updating Island County’s parks plan will be the planning commission’s highest priority task this year under the preliminary 2010 annual review docket.

Every year the county commissioners set a docket which lists the long-range planning projects that the planning department and the volunteer planning commission will take on.

Monday, Planning Director Bob Pederson presented the commissioners with a draft docket based on their conversations during staff sessions. The items are listed in order of priority.

The top priority is the parks plan update, which was taken off the docket last year because of low staffing levels from layoffs. The county needs an updated parks plan in order to qualify for grants.

The second priority is the shoreline master plan update, which will be coordinated with the fish and wildlife update. The updates are large-scale projects required by state law.

The third priority is the city of Oak Harbor’s long-unresolved request to expand its urban growth area, which is the area just outside city limits earmarked for future annexation. During the city’s 2005 comprehensive plan amendment process, the city leaders identified seven projects totaling 180 acres that they wanted included in the city’s urban growth area. The process came to a halt in 2008 when the county withdrew a mitigated determination of nonsignificance.

The fourth priority is the Freeland subarea plan, which would set policies to guide the creation of development regulations in the area. It’s a necessary step in creating new development rules for Freeland.

The fifth priority is the public benefit system and timber open space. County officials are concerned that the tax break given to certain timber property is being used inappropriately and that the tax burden is unfairly shifted to the rest of the landowners.

The last priority is the county’s controversial “accident potential zones” that limit development in areas around Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.

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