Localgroup considering council plan changes

Published on Thu, Apr 22, 2004 by ack Kintner

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Local group considering council plan changes

By Jack Kintner

The Birch Bay Steering Committee (BBSC) met in a special meeting April 21 to consider the revisions made to their subarea plan by the planning and development committee of Whatcom County Council.
The plan is a culmination of work begun by the committee in January of 2001, stimulated by a year-long economic development program put on by the Port of Bellingham the preceding year. Consultants Pat Milliken and Mart Kask were part of both processes.

“We met for 18 months, consumed 60 or 70 reams of copier paper and a dump truck full of toner,” said Milliken when the plan assumed its final form last year. The 17-chapter document then went before the planning commission, which implemented minor changes, and is now before county council.

The council’s planning and development committee (Seth Fleetwood, Laurie Caskey-Schreiber and Barbara Brenner) got first crack at the plan, and made its most controversial move in agreeing to council chairman Dan McShane’s suggestion to reduce the plan’s boundaries on Birch Point to end at the west side of Birch Bay Village. They also removed a relatively boggy area from the plan in an area bordered by Lincoln, Shintaffer, Harborview and Anderson roads. Together this effectively eliminates about 800 acres from consideration.

Since it would remain rural in designation, development would be impeded and the land would effectively be downzoned. McShane was quoted as saying that his concerns were the de-stabilizing effects on the Birch Point Bluff that too much development inland would create.
BBSC vice-chair Kathy Berg was quick to react, sending out an appeal for the council committee to reconsider its decision and calling an April 21st meeting to prepare for the council committee’s hearing on the matter set tentatively for May 18. She pointed out the rationale the original BBSC used in deciding to include or exclude various neighborhoods and urged the committee to address its environmental concerns directly.

“Removing [the parcel on] Birch Point from the Urban Growth Area (UGA) will do absolutely nothing to address the stormwater management issues,” her appeal stated.

Similarly, Jon Syre of the Trillium Corporation said that much of the land they own in the area that was removed from the plan is slated for gradual development. “Where else can you appropriately accommodate growth in the Birch Bay area over the next 20 years?”
Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic discussed other concerns he has with the plan in an e-mail to Blaine chamber of commerce president Pam Christianson. In it, Tomsic said that he felt that the commercial zoning in the UGA is too dispersed and that the UGA itself is too large. Both will lead to sprawl as well as create zones that will compete with a downtown in Blaine just now emerging from years of economic doldrums.

Christianson agreed, saying that “I’m not anti-growth, but I am anti the wrong type of growth. We need to be careful.” She cited, for example, the commercial development intended for the corner of Birch Bay-Lynden Road and Blaine Road as “understandable, but that parcel at Lincoln and Shintaffer doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Because of last night’s meeting the county council’s planning and development committee delayed consideration of the Birch Bay Subarea Plan until its May 4 meeting, and at this point plans to hold an open hearing on May 18.