Final stages of Birch Bay plan delayed

Published on Thu, Jan 31, 2002 by Jack Kintner

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Final stages of Birch Bay plan delayed

By Jack Kintner

The Birch Bay steering committee put the final touches on the land use chapter of the comprehensive plan last Wednesday and, with three meetings left, hopes to have the full plan ready for adoption by February 20.

The plan was originally scheduled to be ready by the end of last month but the process has slowed. Steering committee chair Meg Grable expressed her frustration in a memo to consultants Mart Kask and Pat Milliken that she read at the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, saying in part, “I would like to see an excellent, quality product; however, as chair of this planning process I’d like to encourage you to proceed in the most rapid fashion. There are committee members who spend hours on the material you present and are not happy beginning their review of said material less than 24 hours before discussing it. It would appear that this project is taking more time than you first predicted.”

Grable expressed frustration at issues yet to be covered in the time remaining, such as hearing from the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce’s new economic development committee or dealing with plan modifications suggested by Gold Star Resorts. “Perhaps we’ll learn more about this tonight,” Grable said in her memo.

Kask admitted that the process is “behind schedule,” but said it has been necessary to make sure the plan is well documented and quantified before being submitted for review to the county planning commission and ultimately to the county council. “It would be foolish of us to submit something that isn’t ready, where two and two don’t equal four. We will not charge for the extra time it has taken beyond our original estimate,” Kask said. He added that he anticipates a very detailed scrutiny of the plan at the county level, and shortcuts taken now “will only get us in trouble later on.”

Committee member Bill Grant introduced Peter Spencer of Goldstar Resorts Inc. who proposed moving ten acres of general commercial zoned property from north to south of Arnie Road, making it contiguous with a larger piece of commercial land fronting on Blaine Road, and this passed 13-1. The other asked for a re-zone, from residential rural to resort commercial, of 40 acres Goldstar is purchasing immediately south of this enlarged commercial parcel. “We would like to provide recreational sites away from the beach,” said Spencer. The initial vote ended in a 6-6 tie, but when Grable asked for a second vote, the motion failed 7-6.

Birch Bay Water and Sewer District Commissioner Pat Alesse reassured some at the meeting over doubts about the district’s ability to provide needed services as Birch Bay’s population expands in the next 20 years. “There will be water for everyone. We still have Nooksack River rights we haven’t used yet,” Alesse said.

Considerable discussion was devoted to 1300 acres owned by Trillium Corporation that lies between the BP Cherry Point refinery and the shoreline, now zoned for heavy industry but which the land use chapter designates residential low density and that Trillium hopes to develop for private homes.

“Given all the considerations for wetlands and other factors, we’d average about two houses per acre in the area,” said Trillium vice president for development Bob Libolt.

Trillium and the refinery are currently negotiating the size of a buffer zone on the refinery’s west side. Libolt provided several opportunities for the committee to tour the property, saying, “You really can’t tell much from a map. You get out there and see the property, the refinery and the setting and you’ll have a much better idea about all this.” He said the next tour would be the next morning.

A dozen people showed up the next day in a high wind to drive through Trillium’s proposed development, accompanied by Greg Rust, security and safety supervisor at the refinery, where both men described their respective preferences as to boundaries and buffer zones.

At an earlier meeting the committee had decided to leave the designation unchanged on this parcel to not prejudice negotiations between Trillium and BP.

The meeting closed with Bill Grant announcing that Rich Emerson, chairman of the economic development committee of the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce, would be at the next meeting to make the presentation that Grable had alluded to in her memo. The remaining meetings, all on Wednesdays, are set for January 30, February 13 and 20..

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