Councildelays action on Seagrass condo proposal

Published on Thu, Aug 25, 2005 by ack Kintner

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Council delays action on Seagrass condo proposal

By Jack Kintner

Blaine city council deliberated for an hour in a study session before Monday night’s regular meeting before deciding to postpone a decision on the Seagrass condominium project. But the council also got a clear signal that the project’s backers were willing to modify their plan substantially in order to gain council approval.

Regardless, any final determination is at least two weeks away. This will give council members a chance to read materials submitted to them by both city staff and the Blaine planning commission which recommend denying permits for the 22-acre 72-unit condominium project planned for Semiahmoo spit.

Consultant Rollin Harper of Sehome Planning in Bellingham began the study session by leading the council through an outline of the proposed project that they will be asked to approve or reject.

Technically, Harper explained, the council will actually decide on three requests from the developer’s agent, Trillium Corporation, the first of which is to approve or deny the plat itself. Council will also consider its configuration as a planned unit development (PUD) which allows the developer some flexibility in meeting certain regulations.
Finally, council must approve a shoreline substantial development permit for the project, required because of the project’s close proximity to the shoreline.

After going through the history of the proposal’s consideration by city departments and the planning commission, Harper said it was rejected by staff and by the planning commission, both of which recommended the council deny approval, because the two agencies felt it was not consistent with Blaine’s municipal code. “The over-riding inconsistency with [Blaine’s] code,” Harper said, “is in the lack of clustering, that is, there are dunes areas between the buildings, but the object in the Blaine code is to unify these areas as much as possible.”

City attorney Jon Sitkin reminded the council members at one point that they are not legally allowed to discuss the matter among themselves outside an official meeting or study session. In response to a question from councilman Bob Brunkow, Sitkin said “I know it’s a lot of material, but can you compare notes with another council member on the 9th green? No.” Since the proceedings are quasi-judicial in nature, Sitkin pointed out, council members also cannot discuss the issue with anyone else outside an official meeting.

Possible changes in the proposal came to light when Blaine community development director Terry Galvin said earlier in the study session that the Trillium Corporation, who is pursuing approval for the required permits on behalf of the owners, Gepetto Properties, wanted to introduce modifications to their earlier proposal even though the time period for such changes has passed. Should the council decide to consider any modifications to the proposal sent to them by the planning commission, it would be necessary to submit the changes to the planning commission first for review, and allow for public comment, Galvin said.

Sitkin agreed, saying that “the [Blaine municipal] code allows for modifications, but then the proposal has to go back to staff and to the planning commission as a revised application. Or you can choose to deny [it], or you can approve it, or you can remand it back to the planning commission if you find an error of law.”

In one version of the modifications that Trillium’s Wayne Schwandt brought for distribution at the meeting, three lots were cut from the east end of the development on the Drayton Harbor shoreline on the south side of the spit, the duplex units to be built in the middle of the peninsula were combined into seven four-plexes, one six-plex was added and a planned relocation of Semiahmoo Parkway was eliminated. The well-known eagle snag would be left in its present location and a two-story parking garage would remain near the east end of the 22-acre parcel. The number of living units would be reduced by eight, from 72 to 64.

Project opponents who expected the council to take some action came away disappointed. “It’s difficult to understand, considering the time that has elapsed,” said Trevor Hoskins, “that council members were not ready to discuss the staff and planning commission’s recommendations to deny the application.”

When asked earlier why the Seagrass property, along with two other parcels, was already being advertised for sale on the Trillium Corporation website when necessary approvals are not in place, Schwandt had no comment.