City unveils proposal for UGA cuts

Published on Wed, Jun 10, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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Following requirements by the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) Blaine community development director Terry Galvin unveiled a proposal  that would cut the city’s urban growth area (UGA) by two-thirds.

During a regular meeting of Blaine City Council Monday, Galvin presented the plan that, if approved by Whatcom County, would remove the southern portion and reduce the east and west portions of the city’s UGA.
The proposal would remove 2,549 acres from the total 3,725 acres in the existing UGA, which county officials say is the most “significantly oversized” UGA in Whatcom County.

Although Whatcom County officials could feasibly eliminate Blaine’s UGA altogether, Galvin said he’s recommending they allow Blaine to keep at least 400 acres in  east Blaine to allow adequate space for industrial and commercial development, and 600 acres in west Blaine because of the “considerable” real estate investment that has already been made there.

“In west Blaine there has already been 350 homes built within the UGA. Historically, that’s been an area Trillium has relied on, believed was in the UGA and invested in,” Galvin said. “And in east Blaine, we already lack adequate capacity for commercial and light industrial,” he said. “We’ve had in the past potential manufacturing companies come in over the years and then move on because there weren’t adequate pieces of land.”

The proposal comes after a 2007 decision by the Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) that found nearly 20,000 acres of Whatcom County out of compliance with the state’s growth management act (GMA) in terms of rural and urban density as well as commercial and industrial land uses.

As a result, the hearings board is requiring Whatcom County to reduce the size of its total UGA area by December 1.

Whatcom County planning director David Stalheim said the directive is intended to preserve the character of rural areas by preventing sprawl and suburban-type development while concentrating growth in urban areas. Based on Whatcom County projections, Blaine’s population will grow by 2,000 to 3,700 people over the next 20 years but existing city limits are currently able to accommodate an increase of over 11,000 new residents. In addition, the roughly 3,000 acres of developable land in the UGA that stretches from south of Blaine, along Drayton Harbor Road to  Semiahmoo can accommodate another 9,000.

The proposal will be submitted to the Whatcom County Council for review on June 16. After that, it will go to the Whatcom County planning commission and back to the council by December 1.