Cityimposes conditions on Seagrass

Published on Thu, Nov 4, 2004 by ack Kintner

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City imposes conditions on Seagrass

By Jack Kintner

Blaine community economic development director Terry Galvin issued a determination last week outlining 27 conditions the Trillium Corporation must meet to mitigate the environmental impact of its proposed 72-unit Seagrass Cottages development on Semiahmoo spit. He stopped short of requiring a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to replace one Trillium did when their original project was approved in 1986.

Galvin made the determination as the city’s designated State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) official to set forth conditions under which the project, if approved, would avoid having a “probable significant adverse impact on the environment.” It does not constitute approval of any permits. A public comment period on the decision closes Wednesday, November 10.

Called a “Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance,” or MDNS, the document calls for Trillium to, among other things, monitor and control stormwater pollution both during construction and afterward, establish a number of public access points, view corridors and special trails, and allow a special inspector approved by the city to be on-site at all times to monitor compliance with conditions.

The document also requires Trillium to show how it will continue to contribute a fair share of funding for off-site traffic improvements needed by the new project, something Trillium agreed to in 1986. The well-known eagle snag on the northwest corner of the property will be moved and the document further requires that two more eagle perching trees or poles be added. It also calls for extensive earthquake, storm and tsunami risk assessments.

Galvin’s decision is a result of a process that began with a checklist he supplied to Trillium after taking into account what Galvin called “changes in conditions” since Trillium first began developing its projects on the spit based on permits issued in 1986. “Things are different now. For example, there are increases in various programmatic environmental protections,” Galvin said, “coming from agencies like the Department of Fish and Wildlife and over concerns about how to handle things like shorelines management and storm water management.”

Galvin said he looked at everything connected with the project, including Trillium’s 1985 EIS and a number of other documents dating back almost 30 years. The material fills a two-inch thick binder in his office and provides the basis for on-going negotiations with Trillium over the impact their proposed project will have.

Pam Andrews, project manager for Trillium, said that she was generally satisfied with the conditions though “there were a couple we would have approached differently, such as the view corridors. We would have accomplished the same thing in a different way, so we’ll go back and work with the architect to be clear about what we’re going to do.”

She agreed that the one eagle snag should be relocated since “It’s not stable enough where it is. We’re using wildlife biologist Jim Wiggins of Aqua Terra Systems Inc. in Sedro Woolley to help with that.”
Andrews said that the process basically is a way for “both the city and Trillium to come up with language that spells out what they want and what we’ll do, and puts us on the same page.”

Geoff Menzies, who just last summer gained approval to harvest oysters in Drayton Harbor, was disappointed that the document did not directly address the issue of impervious surfaces and order Trillium to completely contain its stormwater runoff. “There are 72 units in this, and if each one has two cars that’s 144 more vehicles living on the spit. As you approach having 20 percent of the area in impervious surfaces like roofs and driveways, then you begin to compromise the water quality for shellfish, yet I see nothing specific,” Menzies said. “They should require that stormwater be managed on-site completely. If there is run-off they should be required to monitor it and that levels of bacteria leaving their site be compatible with the conditions we’ve worked so hard to meet over the last five years,” Menzies added.

“It seems like we go round and round and try to support things like the shellfish beds, but you know I think [Semiahmoo spit] is one of the last places in Whatcom County where we should be doing residential development,” Menzies concluded, “because it’s just nuts, although I understand it’s in the master plan. But we haven’t really as a community sat back and asked if this really make sense. Is it worth degrading the whole experience on the spit? We should at least ask the question.”
Semiahmoo resident Trevor Hoskins agreed, saying “It is encouraging to see there are some 27 mitigating conditions but our main concern is this does not include any developer’s future plans for the remainder of the spit. For example, how can you possibly evaluate the potential impact of one project on birds and waterfowl without the knowledge of what is to happen to the remainder of the spit? I have asked the city of Blaine to allow a committee to discuss the future of the whole spit and not let it develop on a project by project basis. They have expressed their concern to avoid this kind of development in the center of Blaine, and why can’t they get their hands around the whole of the spit?”

Public Comment
Public comments on this document, copies of which are available at the planning department office, will be accepted through November 10. The determination itself can be appealed until November 24, and comments on the project itself will be accepted through the end of the year.

All comments should be addressed to Terry Galvin, director, Department of Community Development, 344 H Street, Blaine, WA 98230; or email tgalvin@cityofblaine.com.