Development met with concern, opposition
More than 200 people gathered at Resort Semiahmoo last Friday evening to learn more about 62 proposed condominiums, called the Seagrass Cottages, on the spit.
Trillium, which owns the Resort, intends to build the units as part of the company�s master plan. Trillium�s chief operating officer Jonathan Syre spoke for more than two and half hours about the plan and fielded many questions from the audience.
�The attempt of this meeting is to pass on as much information as possible. I want to make sure the true facts come out,� Syre told the audience. �For example, I heard that Costco�s coming in, but really it�s a Sam�s Club. Just joking.�
The design of the Seagrass Cottages started several years ago, Syre said, and the company decided to move ahead with 62 multi-family units. The units will be landscaped with low brush, logs, beachwood and grasses, presenting a dune-like environment. �The whole intent of landscaping is to really go with the name,� Syre said.
Syre presented eight illustrations to the audience in an attempt to present a visual interpretation, but some residents voiced their concerns against the development, no matter how pretty the units are.
�Your presentation and condominiums are attractive, we just don�t want them on the spit,� Trevor Hoskins said.
Syre said that Trillium is interested in feedback from local residents, but reminded the audience these plans have been in the company�s hands for 20 years. �We have a master plan that indicates these intentions to build,� he said. �The Seagrass Cottages plan does have a few minor changes from the master plan. If Trillium doesn�t get approval, we will develop another project that concerns some of the issues.�
Dean Aldrich told the audience that although their feedback is welcome and they live within the Semiahmoo community, in the end this is private property. �This is private property, and this is a developer with a master plan in place,� he said.
Because of the proposed development, certain aspects of the spit could change if approved. For example, developers are asking to reroute the Semiahmoo Parkway near the resort and the infamous snag, often the sight of a perched eagle or two, may be artificially recreated.
�Many of you, as do I, enjoy the eagle snag tree,� Syre said. �I�d really like to keep the snag on the property and blend with the units.�
Some were concerned about the potential development impacts on the eagles, but others thought the eagles would be able to live among the units. And Syre noted the company would be willing to build an artificial snag, if the snag could not be moved. �We have spoken with the county parks and recreation department about it,� Syre said. �We have permission to move the snag into the county park.�
Although the meeting�s intention was to focus on the Seagrass Cottages, many concerned residents wanted to know about the possibility of a casino, the sewer treatment plant, and the logging on Birch Point.
Earlier this month, the Trillium corporation announced that it entered into a consulting agreement with Skagit Valley Casino Resort (The Skagit) to operate Resort Semiahmoo, as well as the Semihamoo golf course and Loomis Trail golf course.
�The Upper Skagit are currently managing our hotel. They run their casino and resort extremely well,� Syre said, noting the deal allows them to share amenities.
�There are no plans to put gambling at this hotel,� he said. �It�s never been our plan.�
When asked how long the management contract was, Syre said he did not know. As for potential gambling at Loomis, Syre said he hadn�t thought that far ahead.
Many voiced concerns with the sewer treatment plant and its capabilities in dealing with more development, thus more waste.
�We�ve had a couple of conversations with the city of Blaine and they have not told us they will be unable to service us,� Syre said.
Patti Rutter, a local resident, told Syre that the sewer treatment plant has had 115 violations in recent times. �If you�re marketing this area to enjoy the pristine area, how could you not be concerned with the development of the spit?� she asked.
Recently, city manager Gary Tomsic said the city would not allow further building until the sewer plant was figured out.
The city is holding an informational sewer meeting about its present capacities and future plans on April 3 at the Blaine senior center. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 7 p.m.
Trillium owns 1,100 acres on top of Birch Point, Syre said, of which 550 acres were harvested for timber. �It�s not a pretty thing,� he said. �My plan is to replant the trees. I don�t have plans to develop that property.�
Trillium is preparing to burn large piles of logging debris, using fans. �They will not burn all at once,� he said. �I anticipate that area being open for all of you to enjoy.�