Semiahmoo residents receive expanded police patrols
After nearly two years of back-and-forth negotiations between the city of Blaine and the residents of Blaine’s Semiahmoo neighborhood, city police officers will begin enforcing the 20 mph speed limit inside the gated community on Monday, January 15.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for several years,” said Whatcom County sheriff and former Blaine police chief Bill Elfo, who along with local realtor Mike Kent was instrumental in drafting a state law that passed three years ago making it legal for a gated community to have a local police department help calm down traffic by enforcing speed limits on roads normally closed to the public.
Speed limits are 20 mph inside the gates and 35 on Semiahmoo Parkway, dropping to 25 out on Semiahmoo Spit.
Prior to this, according to Debbie Smith, long-time administrative director of the Semiahmoo Resort Association (SRA), Semiahmoo and other gated communities were on their own, responsible for enforcing speed limits themselves.
Not that the police haven’t had access, as Blaine police chief Mike Haslip pointed out. “Blaine police have always patrolled Semiahmoo’s gated neighborhoods for public safety and criminal violations including impaired drivers,” said Haslip. The new law enables residents and the city to work out a contract that expands the jurisdiction of Blaine police to cite speeders on Semiahmoo’s streets, which are not public roadways.
The push to enforce speed limits got momentum after a close call a few years ago in which two children were almost hit by a speeding resident.
“People also use the roads for walking and bike riding,” said Semiahmoo resident Ron Leach, past president of the SRA, “and while this isn’t Florida, it’s important for people to be careful and to slow down.”
Smith said that as far as she knows, having worked at Semiahmoo for 20 years, there has never been a serious accident or an injury in the roughly 20 miles of paved roads inside the gates. Right now there are 370 houses and 130 condominium apartments in the neighborhood that serve roughly 1,200 to 1,500 residents, “many more of whom live there year around,” said Smith.
A number of alternatives were considered, like speed bumps and hiring an independent security force like the one in Birch Bay Village.
“But after looking at one or two quotes for this service we as a SRA board decided to look at having the city do it, especially since unlike Birch Bay Village we’re a neighborhood inside an incorporated town.”
After eight draft proposals and 18 months’ work the SRA signed a contact with the Blaine city council granting them exclusive authority to enforce speeding violations, the first gated community in the state to take advantage of the new law.
Haslip said he hopes that the prospect of receiving a traffic violation will work as a deterrent for traffic problems that have persisted despite phone calls and personal contact with chronic violators, many of whom themselves live inside what he characterized as a densely packed residential area with a lot of pedestrians.