Cityplans to object to county zoning decision

Published on Thu, Oct 21, 2004 by Meg Olson

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City plans to object to county zoning decision

By Meg Olson

The city of Blaine isn’t happy with zoning changes recently adopted by the county along with the Birch Bay community plan. According to city manager Gary Tomsic, changing a stretch of Lincoln Road near Shintaffer to a general commercial zone will steal Blaine residents from Blaine businesses.

“I think it’s a mistake,” Tomsic said. Based on the September 28 county council approval of the Birch Bay Community Plan and subsequent comprehensive plan and zoning changes, he said he would recommend Blaine city council appeal the decision to the state growth management hearings board. “The city of Blaine has consistently asked the county not to adopt this zoning,” Tomsic told city council on September 27. “It’s unnecessary, it’s spot zoning, and it serves no purpose but to intercept the citizens of Blaine and as such has a negative effect on our merchants and business community.”

Tomsic said the city had been writing letters and appearing before county council and its subcommittees for the past several years since it was first proposed to rezone the area south of Lincoln Road and west of Shintaffer Road until the start of Semiahmoo Parkway as general commercial, reflecting the Birch Bay plan’s idea of creating commercial “nodes” throughout the urban growth area. An area east of the parcel in question was also rezoned, from resort commercial to medium-density residential.

In a letter submitted to county council to be included in the record at the September 28 public hearing prior to adoption of the zoning change, city attorney Jon Sitkin describes the proposed change as “one of the worst types of sprawl.” He also says the change is against traditional land use law and violates the state growth management act. “The inclusion of this area is an illegal spot zone as it brings no community benefit, harms the existing larger community in that it will detract from and adversely affect the revitalization efforts underway in the city of Blaine,” he wrote. County council did not discuss the letter during the September 28 public hearing, but council office confirm the item was entered as part of the public record.

Tomsic said part of the problem has been the county’s unwillingness to discuss or even acknowledge the city’s concerns. “Every time there has been an opportunity to comment, we’ve commented,” he said.

“I think what happened is the deliberations on the Birch Bay plan got sidetracked with issues about urban growth area size, Birch Point, Point Whitehorn and all the discussion focused on that one issue. There didn’t seem to be a lot of attention paid to other parts of the plan.”

County planning and development service director Hal Hart said the rezoned area was intended as a neighborhood hub, not a commercial destination. “It was important to the area because with the density the county is developing under the plan we wanted to make sure those new neighborhoods have a place that is walkable,” he said. “We’re considering it for neighborhood not large-scale use.” He said those uses could include a supermarket.

Hart also indicated that his department was sensitive to the city’s concerns. “I’m open to working with the city to better define what comes into that area and its consistency with what the city would like to see,” he said. County council chair Sam Crawford and council member Seth Fleetwood were not available to comment on council approval of the zone change.

Tomsic said he planned to approach city council in late October for their approval of plans to challenge the rezone for violating the state growth management act.