New housing development proposed for east Birch Bay

Published on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A California-based land development company has submitted permits to Whatcom County with the intent to build a 97-lot housing development in east Birch Bay.

The development, called Birch Bay Meadows, would occupy an approximately 64-acre tract of land at the intersection of Blaine and Birch Bay-Lynden roads near the Double R Ranch. The land, which is zoned for four houses per acre, is valued at $323,950, according to the county assessor’s office.

The project has been in the works since 2005 and has the approval of the county hearings examiner, but the developer only recently submitted an application to build the project in phases, which the original permits did not include, said senior Whatcom County planner Amy Keenan. The county must approve the developer’s phased construction plan to make sure each phase of homes is independently serviced by utilities, Keenan explained.

Garrett Real Estate Services Inc. plans to complete the project over the next six years with a final completion date tentatively set for 2017. The phased construction still needs to undergo a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review, which will determine if existing infrastructure in the area, such as water, sewer and fire service, can handle the additional homes, Keenan said.

In 2005, the development received a SEPA determination of nonsignificance, which means the county’s existing mitigation code was enough to handle the development’s additional burden on the area’s infrastructure. Keenan could not predict whether the new phased construction plan would be issued a similar determination.

Garrett Real Estate received a two-year economic hardship project extension from Whatcom County Planning and Development Services after the economic downturn halted a great deal of new construction in the county, Keenan said. Many project developers have applied for the one-time extension and are still within the two-year time period.

The developer of Birch Bay Meadows, Paul Garrett, would have been allowed to start construction on the project now if he had not applied to build the project in phases, Keenan said. If the new plan is approved, Garrett will have to consult with county public works to design the details of the project.

“He’s really close,” Keenan said.

As part of the project’s permitting process, Garrett also submitted a preliminary long subdivision application to the county. Such an application is necessary if a landowner wants to divide land into five or more parcels, Keenan said.

The county will accept public comments on the application until August 25. For more information on the project or to submit a comment, contact Keenan at akeenan@co.whatcom.wa.us or 360/676-6907.