Birch Bay rezone to allow more homes

Published on Wed, Nov 3, 2010 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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Whatcom County Council has approved a measure that puts 789 acres near Birch Bay one step closer to being rezoned to allow more houses per acre.

In a 5-2 vote, council directed staff October 26 to draft a law rezoning the properties near Birch-Lynden and Blaine roads from R10, which allows one house per 10 acres, to R5, or one house per five acres. Council members Ken Mann and Carl Weimer voted against the resolution.

The land was part of the Birch Bay urban growth area (UGA) allowing four houses per acre until a November 2009 council decision downzoned it to R10.  The following month, councilmember Sam Crawford submitted a request to rezone the land at R5 density.

Crawford argued the downzone was too drastic and unfair to property owners.

“I did not see any compelling reasons why [the land] should be downzoned further to meet a rural designation,” Crawford said.
He justified the upzone by pointing out that some of the land had previously been effectively zoned R5 because they did not have utilities servicing the properties.

Although some of the property owners have opposed being taken out of the UGA and would like that zoning restored, Crawford doesn’t want to go there at this time.

“Restoring them to [one house per five acres] is the least we can do for them,” he said.

Justification for the R10 zoning is contained in a county planning report citing the county’s comprehensive plan that aims to preserve the area’s rural character of the area by discouraging R5 zoning in favor of the less dense R10.

Crawford disagreed with the staff recommendation, arguing the section of the comprehensive plan cited by the staff report was only meant for land that had historically been zoned R10. The 789 acres that were removed from the Birch Bay UGA and rezoned R10 represent a completely different situation, he noted.

Depending on staff turnaround, council could vote on the actual rezone as early as their next council meeting on November 9.