2010: Year In Review continued...

Published on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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2010 was quite a year for the country and for Blaine and Birch Bay. The economy made slight but not unnoticeable gains, though unemployment was still on the minds of hundreds of thousands of Americans. The 2010 election year saw a surge in populist support for Republicans, even in Whatcom County. Continued from last week...


• The Blaine school board renewed superintendent Ron Spanjer’s contract for another three years. One of the first items on Spanjer’s agenda was to develop a bond initiative to fund facility improvements for the district’s schools.

• Construction on the roundabout near Grandview Road and the Cherry Point Refinery began on July 19 after being delayed by rain for about one month.

• Long-time C Shop owners and Birch Bay residents Patrick and Patricia Alesse announced ownership of the shop will eventually transfer to their son Keith and his wife Saara Kuure.

• A Blaine man was one of two Whatcom County residents arrested on suspicion of running an Internet scam often associate with Nigeria. The two men allegedly scammed individuals into giving them more than $3.2 million.

• Construction of a new fuel-producing unit at the BP Cherry Point Refinery was slated to create more than 600 jobs during its construction over the next two years. Once completed, it’s expected to create at least 12 full-time jobs.

• Blaine City Council accepted the second-lowest bid for an H Street improvement project near the Cost Cutter shopping center. Colacurcio Brothers Construction won the bid due to the lowest bidder’s, Friberg Construction, failure to complete the proper bid paperwork.

• Whatcom County Council voted to allow Northwest Parks and Recreation District #2 to operate and maintain the gym and playground at Bay Horizon Park, paving the way for a new playground and upgrades to existing facilities.

• The Blaine school board officially gave superintendent Ron Spanjer the go-ahead to develop a $32 million bond initiative for the April 2011 ballot. The initiative would pay for improvements to the school district’s facilities, including the high and middle schools.

• Blaine’s own basketball star Luke Ridnour signed a four-year, $16 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves after formerly playing with Milwaukee. Ridnour led the Borderites to consecutive 2A state basketball championships including an undefeated season in 1999.


• Local residents and visitors turned out once again at Blaine Harbor for the annual Drayton Harbor Days celebration. Visitors to the marina enjoyed numerous activities including a pirate dress-up contest, a display of vintage wooden boats, and the 10th annual George Raft Race.

• The ribbon was cut at the Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility on August 6.

• Whatcom County Council voted to direct county executive Pete Kremen to draft a letter to the city of Bellingham telling city officials that the county wants to renegotiate the Whatcom Medic One agreement entered into in 2005.

• Members of the Birch Bay community held their first brainstorming session with tourism consultants Beckwith Consulting as part of the $20,000 Birch Bay tourism study paid for by the Port of Bellingham.

• August 17 primary election results pit Blaine’s Jason Overstreet against Bellingham detective Al Jensen for the 42nd district’s first representative position for the November 2 general election, with Vincent Buys facing off against incumbent representative Kelli Linville for position 2.

• Blaine resident David Parshall was killed in a one-car accident near Birch Bay on August 15. The vehicle he was traveling in drove off the road into a ditch, striking a pole, and rolling over.

• Three youths under the age of 20 were arrested on allegedly gang-related assault and destruction of property charges on Alderson Road and Loft Lane on August 16.

• Whatcom County Council voted to return 17 acres to Birch Bay’s UGA. The land is located on the east side of the community.

• The Blaine school board voted 4-0 to approve the district’s $21.1 million budget for the 2010/2011 school year. While the district did not have to make serious cuts to staff, superintendent Ron Spanjer said it will get harder and harder to find other places to cut once the 2011/2012 school year rolls around.

• Birch Bay residents attended another meeting held by Beckwith Consulting to discuss the results of their brainstorming session earlier in the month. Beckwith expanded upon 13 main concepts they thought vital to improved Birch Bay tourism that were gleaned from the first meeting.


• Developer Ken Imus confirmed high-end restaurant chain Black Forest Steakhouse will be one of the first tenants of downtown Blaine’s Bank Building, currently undergoing renovation.

• Birch Bay resident and developer Duane Nelson announced plans for a 46-unit condominium project called The Tides at Birch Bay.

• Local wildlife officials expressed alarm over 11 dead seals that had washed up on the shores of Point Roberts and Blaine over Labor Day weekend. All appeared to have been killed by human activity.

• A local resident accumulated three DUI charges in one night after a drive down Sweet Road on September 13 resulted in two crash cars and a wounded forehead. The story made national news.

• A Blaine resident pled guilty to third degree assault in connection with a baseball bat beating that occurred in Bellingham in 2008. The man and a friend pursued and beat three other men who had broken a Bellingham comic shop window while mooning the patrons inside the store.

• Following a failed tax increase, the Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) on September 19 cut a mid-day trip of route 55 to Blaine and Birch Bay and route 28X to Ferndale. The WTA had already cut all Sunday services, including specialized transportation.

• Data released for the state’s new public school assessment tests presented Blaine high school’s math performance as an area for improvement.

• The city of Blaine earned a clean audit of its finances for 2009, according to a state auditor report released September 20.

• The Lincoln Road improvement project topped the county’s 2011 construction list. The $3.9 million project would widen and improve the section of Lincoln Road between Shintaffer and Harborview roads north of Birch Bay. 

• Northwest Parks and Recreation District #2 sought support from local voters for a levy that would raise $350,000 for the district annually.

• The new playground at Bay Horizon Park opened in mid-October. Local children and other residents chose the playground’s design from several other designs presented earlier in the year.

• North Whatcom Fire and Rescue appealed a decision by Blaine planning staff with regard to a proposed 48 multi-family home development on Bell Road. Fire officials disagreed with the planning commission’s assertion that the city would assess fire mitigation fees.

• Mercer Distribution Services offered about $670,000 to the city of Blaine for 3 acres of the 33-acre Gateway Business Park, formerly Blaine’s municipal airport, with plans to open a large-scale border inspection facility.

• Canadian officials in Ottawa decided against charging border inspection fees for the second Seattle-Vancouver Amtrak train. Washington state and city officials, including Blaine mayor Bonnie Onyon, claimed the charge would result in canceling the second run.

• The city of Blaine proposed a sewer rate increase, though city staff and Blaine City Council were still debating on the exact amount needed.

• Birch Bay Water and Sewer District won the 2009 outstanding wastewater treatment plant award from the Washington State Department of Ecology.

• A loss against Mount Vernon on October 26 ended the Blaine high school girls’ soccer team’s playoff hopes. The Lady Borderites finish the 2010 season with a 5-7 conference record and a 6-9 overall record.

• Blaine football beat Anacortes to stay in playoff contention, but was upset by Sehome in a devastating loss that ended their 2010 season.

• Whatcom County Council voted to direct county staff to draft a law to rezone about 800 acres in Birch Bay that were removed from Birch Bay’s urban growth area by a 2008 county council decision.

• Republicans made major gains in the 2010 primary election, with all three of the 42nd district’s legislative spots going to Republicans Vincent Buys, Jason Overstreet and Doug Ericksen. However, Democrats Patty Murray and Rick Larsen held onto their congressional seats.

• Washington voters choose to keep government in the liquor and insurance business with their votes on the state’s six 2010 initiatives, but rejected nearly all the tax-raising measures.

• Less than the required 60 percent of voters approved the Northwest Parks and Recreation District #2 levy. 

• The close race between incumbent Washington state representative Kelli Linville and Republican Vincent Buys forced an automatic machine recount of votes with Buys coming out as the eventual winner.

• The city of Blaine observed Veteran’s Day with a morning ceremony outside the police station.

• Whatcom County planning staff unveiled a low-impact development plan to Birch Bay community members. The plan will offer incentives to landowners who use environmentally friendly development practices.

• The Birch Bay tourism study was finished with the Beckwith Consulting firm calling for, among other things, increased way-finding signage around Birch Bay and more connection roads.

• Blaine City Council rejected a 1 percent property tax increase but approved an 11 percent sewer and water rate increase.

• The Washington state Department of Natural Resources signed off on the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve Management plan and rededicated the 3,000-acre reserve. The plan had been in the works since 2003.

• After months of planning and discussion, the Blaine school district board of commissioners voted to send a $32 million bond initiative to the April 2011 ballot. The initiative, if passed, will pay for numerous school facility improvements.

• Canada-based Viva Pharmaceuticals submitted a development application for a $40 million manufacturing facility in Blaine. The company estimated the facility could bring as many as 300 skilled jobs to the area.

• Whatcom County Council approved a settlement agreement with the city of Blaine and Trillium over development in West Blaine. Blaine and Trillium originally disputed the county’s removal of the property from the city’s urban growth area.

• Blaine’s Westman Marine announced it will be closing its doors, citing its inability to pay environmental cleanup costs mandated by the Port of Bellingham.

• Special Agent in Charge Gary J. Phillips, a Blaine Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, was placed under internal investigation after misconduct allegations arose from his work on an international sexual abuse case in California in 2008 and 2009.

• Whatcom County Council voted to rezone about 800 acres in Birch Bay to allow more homes per acre.

• Port of Bellingham commissioners approved a 10-month lease option on a 5-acre parcel of land in Blaine’s wharf district. The lessee, Community Development Studios LLC, plans to build a mixed-use, water-oriented urban village.

• Whatcom County Council directed county executive Pete Kremen to send a letter to the City of Bellingham notifying the city of the county’s desire to dissolve the Medic One agreement in three years, in which time county, city and fire officials will develop a replacement emergency medical service plan.

• Heavy rainfall caused moderate flooding throughout Whatcom County, including Birch Bay.

• Birch Bay Square was put into receivership after its owners accumulated nearly $20 million in unpaid loans.The Upper Skagit Tribe and Trillium put the Semiahmoo Resort and golf courses up for sale, placing its more than 300 employees in danger of unemployment. Armada Investment LLC is set to close the sale on February 15.

• Blaine City Council decided Blaine realtor Ron Freeman will have to pay mitigation fees for his proposed development on Bell Road after a North Whatcom Fire and Rescue appeal was upheld.