Aroundthe city...

Published on Thu, May 19, 2005
Read More News

Around the city...

At the last city council meeting, staff gave council the heads-up on new manufactured home rules scheduled to go into effect throughout Washington state on July 1. Under the law, cities will be unable to discriminate against manufactured homes by, say, restricting them to certain areas.
Under these rules, local governments will have to apply the same rules to stick-built housing as they do for manufactured houses and vice-versa. Cities and towns with design standards may continue to enforce those standards as long as they don’t act in an exclusionary fashion. The new law will not affect neighborhoods with design covenants such as the neighborhoods in Semiahmoo.
Blaine community development director Terry Galvin told council that staff would be preparing the necessary modifications to city zoning ordinances in order to comply with the July 1 deadline.

Developer Joel Douglas’ recent request to allow hotels, motels and other overnight lodging in the residential/office zoning (RO) district has gone nowhere with council, at least for the time being. The RO zone extends roughly along Peace Portal Drive from Boblett Street to Mitchell Street and is intended to be the southern ‘gateway’ to downtown Blaine under the city’s design vision.
Although the area currently includes overnight accommodation, city staff recommended against making the change, pointing out it had been made by just one interested party. Staff is currently readying proposed zoning changes to the central business district and is intending to propose that the RO zone be changed to a residential medium to high density zoning district. Staff cautioned council from “allowing hotel and motels without analysis of potential impacts to the surrounding residential area and without corresponding conditions that would insure compatibility with adjacent residential uses.”
Council appeared sympathetic to Douglas’ request but not to his timing. “I don’t want you to feel like I’m putting a bucket on your head and hitting it with a spoon,” said council member Ken Ely, adding that he would be willing to consider the proposed text amendment when council considers the comp plan as a whole.
Resident Marlene Nash spoke in favor of the change, saying she was planning to convert her historic home into a B & B. Referring to the city’s plans for the boardwalk and other attractions, Nash said, “If you build it, they will come. But where will they stay?” she asked.
Council voted 7-0 to uphold staff’s recommendation to deny the text change after mayor John Liebert said, “We want to manage our growth properly. We have set a timetable; we said we want this (the comprehensive zoning plan) by October. That’s all I’m appealing to our audience to understand. So people 40 years from now say, man, someone did something right.”

In other business, council finished off a lively evening with a short but sharp exchange over a proposal by mayor John Liebert to establish a citizen’s committee to consider alternative economic uses for the land currently occupied by the airport.
Liebert, pointing out that the FAA master plan for the Blaine airport is due in the near future, said, “I realize it’s a hot button issue but if we don’t make an attempt to consider alternatives we are not representing all of our constituents.” He recommended including the Port of Bellingham in any considerations. Council members Marsha Hawkins and Mike Myers were the most adamant in opposition, with Myers saying, “If we start to look at alternatives, then we’re sending the wrong message,” and Hawkins insisting “It doesn’t look proper.”
Liebert, persevering, said, “The longer we wait the more contentious this issue will become. I think we owe it to our community to see if there is another use for those 40 acres.” While Liebert was unsuccessful Monday night, the odds look favorable for at least some sort of review when the master plan is completed.
Fellow council member Bob Brunkow spoke in favor of a review that would examine both alternative uses as well as what benefits are likely to come from an expanded airport.
Council member Bonnie Onyon said she was not anti-airport but would insist that a proper review take place. Liebert would need only one other council member on his side in order for a review to take place.