Residentsask city for moratorium

Published on Thu, Jun 29, 2006 by eg Olson

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Residents ask city for moratorium

By Meg Olson

Some Semiahmoo residents are alleging the city is turning a blind eye while runaway growth overburdens infrastructure and services.
At the June 26 city council meeting four members of the public asked for a moratorium on building permits in Blaine until the city addresses needed road improvements, sewer capacity and long term water needs.
“Lincoln Road is an accident waiting to happen,” said resident Nicole McCaig. She went on to say that if there were an accident, emergency services would not be able to get to it in a timely fashion. “The residents of west Blaine are at risk because of an unmanned fire station.”

McCaig had a list of Blaine’s inadequacies. She described the wastewater system as “old and maxed out.” She complained the water pressure was too low in many areas. Roads accessing west Blaine could not handle the current traffic, let alone anticipated growth. Fire and public safety cannot access the community quickly enough.
Penny Senov said information she had received from city and Semiahmoo Residents Association (SRA) records indicated Semiahmoo would see “an astronomical 85 percent growth rate” in 2006 compared with 2005 if all planned projects went forward. “The infrastructure at Semiahmoo is strained,” she said.

There were 474 homes in Semiahmoo in 2004, and by the end of 2005 there were 521. “Now there are a total of 314 new residences planned or on the books,” Senov said, including Meritage, Seagrass, Inverness, Carnoutsie and Prestwick Village II developments. Senov said her data did not reflect Horizons at Semiahmoo or a multi-use project discussed by Trillium at the last SRA annual meeting, destined for a large parcel at the corner of Semiahmoo Parkway and Semiahmoo Drive.

To get an idea what kind of traffic impact the construction of that many new residences would have, Senov asked council to imagine three trades vehicles daily visited each of those homes under construction.
“In one day that traffic translates to 1,884 vehicle trips per day,” she said, maintaining local roads couldn’t handle it.

Senov also wanted to see a building moratorium. “It’s easier to slow it down now and see what we can handle and what we can’t.”
Patty Rutter questioned why the city was spending $1.5 million on a boardwalk when critical infrastructure needs were not being met. “We need to question how we use our resources in a rapidly developing community,” she said. “If the community is asking these questions and the council isn’t there’s something wrong.”

City council member John Liebert, however, called the complaint “totally erroneous.”

Liebert took exception to the suggestion the city wasn’t dealing with the issues raised. “We are definitely not permitting development that will come in and put our community at risk,” he said. He said staff was “very cognizant and vigilant” in planning for continued growth.

During staff reports later in the meeting Blaine public works director Steve Banham pointed out that construction had already begun on upgrades to the wastewater system and a new sewer plant is due to start construction next year. Money from the boardwalk, city manager Gary Tomsic said, came from lodging tax funds, which can only be used for tourism-related projects, not for roads and sewers.

Community development director Terry Galvin said the city and Trillium had begun a master planning process for the Semiahmoo area.

“We’ve engaged the developers in a process to look at Semiahmoo in its present state, not as it was in 1985,” when the original master plan was drafted, Galvin said.