County inches toward possible incorporation
The Whatcom County Planning and Development Services department has announced plans to solicit proposals for an incorporation feasibility study for Birch Bay.
The request will invite potential consultants to prepare an analysis of the feasibility of incorporating the Birch Bay community into a city based on the city design guidelines currently being developed by the Bellingham-based A Northwest Collaborative (ANC), an architectural and bioregional planning firm led by Davidya Kasperzyk.
Birch Bay is identified as an unincorporated urban growth area (UGA) and has experienced tremendous growth, according to county records that cited figures from a 2004 study by the Kask Consulting group.
The study found the 2000 U.S. Census counted 4,128 people in the Birch Bay area and estimated a population of 9,619 people by the year 2022.
Additional population studies, however, have indicated that Birch Bay has grown 87 percent since the 2000 Census and it is estimated the population at the beginning of 2007 was approximately 7,500.
Whatcom County officials now estimate Birch Bay’s population will reach 2022 levels by 2010.
Birch Bay Steering Committee chair Kathy Berg said as the area continues to grow, the demand for services such as police and fire protection will continue to increase.
Berg said incorporation could give the community more control over how their tax dollars are distributed and the level and cost of services available.
“It sounds counter intuitive to think another layer can improve services without costing a whole lot more, but in fact it can, generally speaking, because we decide what we spend our money on,” she said. “It’s self-determination.”
Berg cited a national study that showed that for every $1 for property taxes collected in an area, residential units require $1.28 worth of services.
Meanwhile, for every $1 commercial business establishments pay in taxes, they require only 17 cents worth of services. “So to have a viable city you have to have a certain base of business and commercial establishments paying property taxes in order to afford the services residents require,” she said. “And a predominantly residential area is not going to be able to afford the services they need.”
Berg added that the incorporation study will help determine the right mix of residential and commercial establishments.
“We don’t yet know what that balance is, that’s one of the things the study will tell us,” she said.
Birch Bay design guidelines upcoming meetings
Two community events are planned for Birch Bay citizens to help develop a town plan and design guidelines to help provide framework for growth. The county planning and development department has enlisted the help of A Northwest Collaborative (ANC), an architectural and bioregional planning firm led by Davidya Kasperzyk, to facilitate the events.
The Birch Bay Steering Committee and Whatcom County will host the ANC team at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, February 8 to review previous findings and examine town concepts developed by ANC.
The second meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, February 10, and will include an examination of site planning, sustainability, streetscape design, building design, public access, and connectivity. That meeting will also discuss what other unincorporated communities are doing. Both meetings will be held at the Jackson Road Bible Center at 7039 Jackson Road in Birch Bay.
The ANC team consists of: Davidya Kasperzyk whose town planning work includes “Imagine Shelton,” and numerous Seattle neighborhoods, Don Carlson FAIA an award-winning architect and urban designer who created Bellingham’s Bellwether buildings, Greg Waddell, a former Bellingham planning director, and Pam Beyette, a renowned public artist.
Other Birch Bay meetings
The Birch Bay Steering Committee meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 24, and will include a discussion with guest speaker Warner Webb, Whatcom County Fire Marshall and a speaker from the Whatcom Land Trust. Webb will speak on how to deal with the recently adopted burn ban in urban growth areas (UGAs).
The next meeting of the Birch Bay Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces subcommittee is scheduled for 7 p.m. February 19 at the Birch Bay Bible Community Church. For more information about the meetings of the Birch Bay Steering Committee and its subcommittees, visit www.biz.birchbay.net/bbsc.