Residents voice concerns overSeacrest project

Published on Thu, Oct 23, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Residents voice concerns over
Seacrest project

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

A proposed four-story, Italian villa-style condominium project at the present site of the Westview Motel at 1300 Peace Portal Drive is drawing concerns from the local community.

A public hearing regarding the Seacrest Villas project � specifically a requested height variance � was recently held at a planning commission meeting, and many members of the community who live near the site voiced opposition to the project, mostly due to its proposed dimensions.

Blaine municipal code states a height restriction of 35 feet for this area; however, the developer is requesting a variance of 13 feet, bringing the total height to 48 feet. Many of the site�s surrounding structures are one and two-story residential units. With the exception of a three-story apartment complex on nearby Harrison Avenue, and a two-story condominium to the south on Peace Portal Drive, the proposed project would be the largest structure along the waterfront road.

Bellingham-based Harborlands, owned by Joel Douglas, is proposing the project, citing the residential market it could serve in Blaine.

Michael Cole, the project�s construction manager, stated at the hearing, �We�ve left substantial view corridors by building up. The plans were made so that the building was held back to leave as many free trees as possible,� he said, noting the triangular shape of the land. �This particular property is quite unusual.�

A market analysis shows �a reasonable, substantial market here� and the proposed plans are �highly articulated, highly detailed and analyzed from one end to the other,� Cole stated. �Please understand the reality of the motive of the project, which is to provide residences to the community.�

He noted the already existing three-story building on Harrison Avenue, and said it would not be much different.

However, for residents it would be much different. The Harrison Avenue apartments do not directly face Drayton Harbor and therefore do not disrupt the view of other residences. Should a four-story condo be built at 1300 Peace Portal, many of the local residences would lose their view, and would sometimes be in the shadow of the tallest building on the block.

David Smith, a 4th Street resident, said the 13-foot variance would not be in the public�s interest. �Granting of this sets a dangerous precedent. There are no four stories in this area and a variance would open the door for other projects,� he said, adding no special privileges should be granted to developers. �The granting of this variance would mean the loss of view and property values to the neighbors.�

As for the triangular shape of the land, he said the developer was well aware of the land prior to purchasing it.

Betty Smith, also of 4th Street, said she was also opposed to the variance. �The developer is totally uncaring of environmental concerns only wanting to squeeze in as many units for profit as possible. All of you are going to drive by this structure, and we certainly do have view issues.� Penny Stand, who lives nearby, said she will lose her view of the water, regardless of the height or width of the project. �I�d rather see them build up. If it spreads out, we actually lose more,� she said. �We all agree it�s an eyesore. We�re all going to lose a view at 35 feet � he�s got us all anyway. The question is would we rather him go up or go out?�

Residents claim should the project design remain as is, the face of Peace Portal Drive would change forever.

Mike Lansin, a developer himself and nearby neighbor, said he didn�t want to stand in the way of progress, but would be cautious in granting a variance. �This is not just the neighborhood affected, this is the city of Blaine affected,� he said. �The view corridor is pretty much eliminated. There will be a super long shadow all of the time, and the parking density problem is pretty huge already.�

In addition to those reasons, he also asserted the structure was going to be out of place. �This is a very nice picture of the top two stories� he said, pointing to an illustration of the project. �The 35 feet is a lot easier on everybody.�

Resident Timothy Lamb voiced growth concerns. �This is the same old story that�s happening all over the U.S. and the world. That piece of property should be a park, it should be public, it�s so beautiful. There�s little chance left in the northwest corridor.�

James Zell said the location in question is an emotional and aesthetic viewpoint. �What do we want Blaine to look like in the future?� he asked.

When asked about the project�s Italian villa-style design, Galvin said the planning department is working with the developer to design something more compatible with the city�s design standards.

�However, remember that that area is not subject to the city�s turn of the century design standards,� he said.

The Seacrest project went before a land use committee last Wednesday, who unanimously voted to recommend a denial of the variance to the planning commission.

�It�s fairly clear the planning commission is going to take the advice of the land use committee and deny the variance,� Galvin said.

Discussion about the project resumes tonight at a 7 p.m. planning commission meeting at city hall.