Birch Bay plan continues next month
The Birch Bay community plan went before the Whatcom County planning commission last week, and will likely be fully approved some time in February. In the meantime, more meetings have been scheduled to deal with details of the plan, including the proposed Birch Point retreat and a recent $338,000 land donation.
A January 8 public hearing has been scheduled for the proposed 10-acre spa-retreat on Birch Point Road, a project of Ellen Shea, creator of the Chrysalis Inn in Fairhaven. Shea is asking the county to rezone the Birch Point area from UR 4 (urban residential 4) to resort commercial, and it is this rezone possibility that caused some residents to form Neighbors for Birch Point - a group fighting the project via a petition drive.
Shea, who does not yet own the property, wants to construct a retreat environment where guests can �nurture their body, relax their mind and refresh their spirit,� she stated in a letter to the Whatcom County planning commission, noting the project would be more than a bed and breakfast. �The acreage is secluded and completely fenced allowing for total privacy and little impact, if any, on neighboring properties.�
Full service retreats, as well as spa services will be available, according to Shea, and the land will remain fenced in. The existing house is about 13,000 square feet with three bedrooms, and Shea would like to construct an additional 12 guest rooms, for a total of 15 overnight guest bedrooms.
Petitioners against the project attended last week�s four-hour planning commission work session; however, the meeting did not allow public input and no voices were heard.
In addition, a January 10 meeting has been scheduled to discuss the Birch Bay community plan and the recent donation that was given to the community. Last month, Ken Hertz of Malibu Associates, a developer in the area, gave $338,000 in land to Birch Bay for use in a project of its choosing.
�The Birch Bay Steering Committee needs you, the people. The community plan goes to county council in February and in the meantime we want to begin implementation projects,� said Kathy Berg, vice-president of the Birch Bay Steering Committee. �More specifically, how best to use the $338,000 donation.�
The donation offers matching money to the Birch Bay community - allowing them $338,000 in funds to allocate towards a project that is later approved by Hertz.
�We need to decide a priority list of projects from the plan as advice for the steering committee,� she said, noting such ideas as acquiring property for a combination Birch Bay parking lot and public restroom, as well as a school that has a park and civic center area. �We need to establish how best to use that money by March 1, as the whole deal will be put together by July 1.�
The meeting will be held on Saturday, January 10 from 10 a.m. to noon at Christ the King facility at the Peace Arch Factory Outlet Mall. Anyone seeking to share their thoughts about the projects are asked to email Kathy Berg at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 371-0171, as they will appear on the meeting�s agenda.
�People can be on the agenda and make presentations no more than five minutes long,� she said. �They should be as detailed as possible when proposing the matching money idea.�
Following the proposals, a vote will take place prioritizing the list of projects at the meeting. �Whoever shows up has a say. We�re going to vote with who is there,� Berg said. �The meeting should only take a couple of hours.�
Organizations will also be at the meeting � including the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) and the Marine Resources Committee � informing residents of regional information, projects and contacts.
The Birch Bay Community Plan is available at the Blaine and Bellingham libraries and online at www.biz.birchbay.net/bbsc/BBSAP. htm.
At last week�s county planning commission meeting, the population figure for Birch Bay was tentatively set at 9,619 people by 2020. That decision will be made by the county council on Tuesday, January 13.
�We may have that many people before that, so we have got to plan,� Berg said. �It�s going to happen whether we like it or not.�