Planning commission recommends upzoning 472 acres in Birch Bay

Published on Wed, Aug 3, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A 472-acre portion of land just south of Drayton Harbor is one step closer to a rezone that would allow more homes after a Whatcom County Planning Commission vote last week.

Whatcom County Council member Sam Crawford put in the request to change the current zoning in March citing multiple complaints from landowners in the area. The change Crawford is seeking would rezone the 87 parcels from one house per 10 acres (R10) to one house per five acres (R5).

Planning staff advised the commission to recommend the zoning change to the county council, saying the rural character of the area will be protected by existing development standards, which include special regulations due to the land’s proximity to Drayton Harbor.

The land in question is bounded by Drayton Harbor to the north, Harborview Road to the east and Lincoln Road to the south, while its western boundary lies just west of Shintaffer Road. The land was originally zoned for four houses per acre (UR4) until county council removed the land from Blaine’s urban growth area (UGA) and rezoned it to R10.

In his zoning change application, Crawford said this “downzoning” was unfair to the current landowners in the area and that the proposed change would correct the “inappropriately restrictive” zoning that the county council’s 2009 decision imposed. Crawford also cited a December 2010 county council decision that rezoned approximately 789 acres in east Birch Bay as support for his zoning change request.

Crawford also suggested the 2010 change, citing reasons similar to those in his current zoning change request. At the time, planning staff advised against the zoning change because the county’s comprehensive plan did not allow rezoning R10 land to R5.

However, recent changes to the comprehensive plan removed those regulations, giving planning staff the option to recommend the change to the planning commission.

In a letter to the planning commission, Leonard Helton, who lives on Drayton Harbor Road, said the current roads would not be able to support the greater traffic volumes more homes in the area would bring and advised the planning commission to not recommend the change to the county council.

Alex MacQuarrie, the owner of a small cabin on the water side of Drayton Harbor Road, wrote that he worries the zoning change will increase traffic and adversely affect his property.

Geoff Menzies, the chair of the Drayton Harbor Shellfish Protection Advisory Committee, wrote to the planning commission that the rezone has the potential to negatively affect the water quality of Drayton Harbor. He said the additional houses and the accompanying septic systems the rezone would allow could increase the amount of fecal bacteria in Drayton Harbor and further limit the harvesting of shellfish in the area.