Communities see significant growth

Published on Thu, Sep 4, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Communities see significant growth

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Blaine and Birch Bay are growing, much in part due its natural environment and the growth just south in Bellingham. Individuals are increasingly taking up residence in the local communities, and developers are moving forward with projects that will build more housing.

In the city of Blaine alone, the number of building permits issued has already exceeded 2002�s total of 42. As of the end of July (August is still being tallied), there were 69 permits issued for residential, commercial and industrial structures within the city.

According to community development director Terry Galvin, the city of Blaine is projecting 20-year growth about three percent higher than Whatcom Count�s projections, as well as other small communities like Everson and Sumas.

The reason for this projected growth rate, Galvin said, is that all small cities are starting to see growth impacts around Bellingham, but Blaine has several advantages over other communities. �As Bellingham experiences growth, people are comparing nearby communities and are discovering Blaine�s amenities, such as the natural beauty of its location on the harbor, the small town atmosphere, excellent school system, and its proximity to I-5,� he said. �They are finding Blaine to be a desirable place to live.�

There are several factors that make Blaine unique, Galvin said, and therefore factor into Blaine�s growth: the community�s environmental and marine characteristics, the physical changes in the downtown area (for example, the cleaning up of derelict signs and properties), the change in regulatory process and the work of the community development team to bring ideas that influence growth. For example, Galvin said, city manager Gary Tomsic would like to organize a fish market in the Blaine pier area. An example is the current boardwalk project that will connect the upper downtown with the lower marine and park areas.

Debbie Harger, Blaine�s title office specialist with the community development department, said there have been many people coming into the community development office who mention their interest in the Blaine community.

�More and more, people are coming into our office to inquire about locating their business here. They are excited about the recent changes in Blaine and its potential,� she said.

Working with the public is a strong point of the community development department, Galvin said. �The city has developed a real service orientation to responsible developers.�

One developer that is taking advantage of Blaine�s potential is Joel Douglas, owner of Grandview Business Center. Douglas said he will be constructing a several-story condominium in the current location of the Westview Motel on Peace Portal Drive.

The location of the land, he said, in addition to the need for housing in the community, is why he is building there. The timeline for that project is already under way, and by this time next year, a structure should be built and lived in.

Other city construction can be seen in city areas such as D Street and Odell Road, where more than 15 homes will be built.

Galvin said one reason for developers coming to Blaine is the city�s review process is more friendly, compared to other communities. �We want to work with people and listen to them and ensure smart projects and building in the city,� he said.

Real estate specialist Mike Kent says he sees significant future growth for both Blaine and Birch Bay, and Bellingham does play a part in that. With Bellingham recently named by numerous magazines and organizations as a top 10 place to live, more and more people are coming to the county. And for those that want to be close to a larger city, they can still reside in small communities such as Blaine and Birch Bay.

�I believe the Blaine area, and Whatcom County as a whole, is becoming a hot spot,� he said. �Bellingham has recently been named one of the top 10 places to retire.�

With the the Canadian dollar up, Internet use, and Vancouver hosting the 2010 Olympics, Kent said a lot of attention is being paid to this area.

�There�s a lot of people looking at Blaine as an investment. This is really the last place that has not been affected by all of the growth in the county,� he said.

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