Council gives go-ahead to Blaine industrial park

Published on Wed, Sep 28, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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The owners of 45 acres of land in southeast Blaine are one step closer to being able to develop the property after a Blaine City Council vote on Monday night.

The city council voted 6-0, with council member John Liebert abstaining, to approve a general binding site plan, which combines a collection of neighboring parcels owned by the Kleins of Vancouver, B.C, into one larger lot for the purposes of future development. The 45-acre site, called the Blaine Industrial Park, sits south of Pipeline Road, between Odell Road and Yew Avenue.

The Kleins first submitted the permits necessary for the industrial park to the city in January 2009 but have owned the land since 1981. The Kleins plan to develop the land into light industrial or commercial offices with conservation areas and a new public road opening onto Odell Road across from North Whatcom Fire and Rescue station 62.

The city council’s approval of the general binding site plan does not approve the building of any structures on the land, Blaine community planner Alex Wenger said. The plan, which gives the Kleins five years to develop the land in some way, allows them to subdivide the land and sell or develop it in phases.

If the binding site plan were not in place, the Kleins would have had to provide utilities to each individual parcel before developing any one of them. Now that the land is one large parcel, portions of the lot can be subdivided and developed individually once building permits are acquired and other requirements are met.

“It allows you to do it one chunk at a time,” Wenger said.

Though a major step toward development has been made, building on the site may be years away. The Kleins must still acquire a certification of water quality from the Washington State Department of Ecology and a permit to alter the approximately 22 acres of wetlands found on the property from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Tenants for the industrial park have yet to be determined.

If the development proceeds within five years, it will be required to comply with the city’s older critical areas ordinance, which governs developments on land with wetlands. The ordinance requires buildings to be 50 feet from the wetlands in the northern part of the property and 25 feet from the southern wetlands. The project is vested under the old critical areas ordinance because applications were submitted before the new critical areas ordinance took effect.

The area contains two separate wetlands, totaling approximately 17 acres, 1,500 feet of Cain Creek, about 5 acres of wetlands buffers and a bald eagle nest in the northwest corner of the property. Cain Creek in the north portion of the land drains into Semiahmoo Bay while stormwater from the southern portion of the property drains into Drayton Harbor, Wenger explained.

The city council also approved a code variance that will allow the proposed road through the property to be narrower than city code allows. City regulations require roads be a minimum of 40 feet from curb to curb while the Kleins proposed a 28-foot-wide road through the property. Blaine public works staff determined the narrower road would still serve its purpose safely and effectively.

The Kleins had also submitted a site plan review, which would have been approved by the city council along with the binding site plan and code variance. The review would have authorized the physical site elements, such as buildings, parking lots and landscaping.

However, the Kleins opted to withdraw the site plan review because its approval would have set a one-year deadline for development. The review proposed a project composed of five buildings with a total footprint of 9 acres and parking for 819 vehicles.

The Kleins said they want to bring one or two significant businesses to the industrial park, with hopes of creating at least 100 to 200 new jobs. They estimate an initial investment in the property would have to be between $10 million and $30 million, which would be for just one 100,000 to 300,000 square-foot building. The Kleins estimate the total project build out to cost between $65 million and $75 million.