Groupgetting ready to forward recommendations

Published on Thu, Feb 9, 2006 by eg Olson

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Group getting ready to forward recommendations

By Meg Olson

The Blaine Citizens Wastewater Advisory Committee opted for one more work session with engineers, architects and landscape designers before coming to city council with options for the planned Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility.

“We haven’t locked into anything and we want to roll up our sleeves and look at some concepts,” said city public works director Steve Banham.

The February 6 meeting brought together committee members, public works and planning staff, representatives from the Port of Bellingham and Blaine city council member John Liebert to work on the look of Blaine’s proposed new sewer plant.

Project engineer Steve Krugel of Brown and Caldwell said their analysis of how the inside of the plant would need to work to meet load and flow projections laid the groundwork for architect Terry Brown of the Zervas Group. “It created spaces inside the structure and the basic envelope,” he said. He added the plant would be sunk 10 feet down into the ground and they would be attempting to place it as far east as possible on the site, across the street from Blaine Marina’s gate three. “There are real and fundamental constraints to this site,” Brown said, including an old city landfill east of the project site.

Brown said his group would take the basic structural requirements from engineers and “we’ll build an envelope around those that conceals what’s inside and gives character.” Of two preliminary ideas Brown presented there was strong consensus in support of the more traditional looking design with saltbox and cross-gabled rooflines.
“It’s a massive building,” Brown said, its highest roof peak rising almost 40 feet from ground level. “We tried to break it down into components that sort of matched the other buildings on the spit.”

Blaine community development director Terry Galvin said he liked the effect of changing rooflines and the appearance of a series of smaller buildings, but he wanted to see less rustic finishes. “This might not be industrial enough,” he said, to fit with nearby fisheries uses.
Most of the discussion stayed centered not on the building but on how to make an amenity out of putting the plant in a park, while minimizing the plant’s presence in the public space.

On the Marine Drive side landscape architect Thomas Rengstorf’s options to add street trees and interpretive sites were both popular. “Architecturally, this is a very large building,” Brown said. “Trees would lend some scale and soften it.”

On the park side the building will be screened partially by a berm and Galvin wanted it to cover as much of the structure as possible, possibly using reclaimed water from the plant for waterfalls as a visual and sound feature. “If the berm were to shield the park from the building it would cut into the park,” Krugel said, because of the increased need for slope with added height. It would also make the plant more expensive to build because walls would need to be stronger to hold back the soil. ‘The people in this town have to pay for it and they want the costs as reasonable as possible,” said committee member Jan Hrutfiord.

“We’re not trying to hide the building, just bring it to a more human scale,” Brown said, adding landscaping along the berm would also help soften the impact of the plant.

Rengstorf presented two potential site plans for the park, and in both cases he said landscape design was constrained by an underground biofilter for odor control.

Banham explained the biofilter option was being explored because it took part of the treatment process out of the plant and used natural aeration under what could be a public amenity. The alternative, odor scrubber units, would increase the size of the plant, and operating costs, but “that does free up the palette for the park.”

Committee member Trevor Hoskins supported going to a scrubber system to avoid disturbance to the park when the biofilter area needed to be dug up and new filtration material laid down every five to ten years. “The biofilter doesn’t really lend itself as well to what would be a normal activity in a park,” agreed city manager Gary Tomsic, adding, “We would have more variety of uses, with the scrubber units.”

There was agreement to move to odor scrubbers and Rengstorf said he would come back with a design making the park more of a community amenity and highlighting access to, and views of, the water.
Galvin also asked for several changes to the site plan, including a more urban plaza at the western end centered around a lighthouse structure and a water feature, and improvements to the eastern entrance to the park. “That is critical to encouraging north-south movement,” he said.