Designplan moves toward completion

Published on Thu, Apr 5, 2007 by ara Nelson

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Design plan moves toward completion

By Tara Nelson

The unincorporated area of Birch Bay is moving closer to adopting design standards that could help protect its natural habitat, preserve character and quality of life.

In a work session of the Birch Bay steering committee’s design implementation subcommittee Tuesday, members commented on a final rough draft of a set of preliminary design guidelines developed by A Northwest Collaborative (ANC), an architectural and bioregional planning firm led by Davidya Kasperzyk, hired by Whatcom County to facilitate the events.

“We’re thinking long term,” said Whatcom County planning and development services director Hal Hart.

Hart said although the actual development of a town center could take as long as 15 to 17 years, the plan will provide some basic building blocks such as consistency in design and public spaces preservation, which could help facilitate incorporation in the future.

“The thing that’s going for this area is the incredible amount of new investment that’s occurring right now,” he said. “So we’re hoping to use that momentum.”

The guidelines call for two major general commercial shopping areas with front-facing buildings and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and vegetation, on the corners of Blaine and Alderson roads and Birch Bay-Lynden and Blaine roads.

A third commercial area on the corner of Harborview and Birch Bay-Lynden roads would serve as a ‘town center’ with eight-foot vegetated medians, sidewalks with six-foot setbacks from the curb, improved pedestrian crossings, front-facing buildings with 35-foot setbacks and rear parking.

Former Bellingham planning director Greg Waddell, now with PS Architecture & Design, who helped ANC complete the plan, said the site of the town center was chosen because the heavy traffic would not lend itself to a pedestrian-friendly design.

The plan also included measures for conservation of Birch Bay’s cottage district, design guidelines for public art, signage regulations, shoreline restoration, road improvements, tree retention, energy-saving design standards such as green roof systems, bioswales to minimize stormwater, and porous concrete surfaces.

Kelvin Barton, chair of the committee’s land use implementation subcommittee, said he was pleased with the plan overall, but he especially liked its emphasis on preserving the area’s distinct cottages.
“Birch Bay’s always had all these different pieces to it and the cottages have been part of Birch Bay for a long time,” he said. “So it preserves the diversity. And they’re a lot more desirable to look at than condominiums.”

Hart said once the comments from Tuesday’s meeting are incorporated into the plan, it will be contrasted with the Birch Bay transportation and incorporation feasibility studies currently under development. From there, the plan will go to the Whatcom County planning commission for review.

Hart said he expects the plan to be approved and to be incorporated into the county’s Birch Bay subarea plan by the end of 2007.
The final design should be available on the county’s web site in June. For more information about the meetings of the Birch Bay Steering Committee and its subcommittees, visit