2011: A look back at the year that was

Published on Wed, Jan 4, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Zoom-zoom. Just like the car commercial, another year has zipped by. While wars, economic upheavals and elections have galvanized the glove, here at home in Birch Bay and Blaine has been somewhat less momentous. Still, before we have a chance to break our 2012 resolutions, here’s a look at what happened in 2011.


• The Washington State Growth Board ruled portions of Whatcom County’s comprehensive plan were inconsistent with state law and therefore invalid. The ruling affected 236 acres in the Birch Bay area.

• Blaine City Council voted to approve an amendment to the city’s building code that will allow buildings such as cottages and garage apartments to be built in certain areas of the city.

• Alan Black, a Blaine resident and former United Airlines pilot, was chosen to fill the Blaine City Council vacancy left by Jason Overstreet.

• Blaine City Council voted to support a rail service study that, among other things, would examine the feasibility of Blaine as a commuter rail stop.

• Lynden resident Wayne Groen was indicted for federal crimes after he shined a high-powered flashlight at a Customs and Border Protection helicopter that was hovering above his house at night.


• Former Birch Bay Water and Sewer District treasurer Glenn Golay was arrested on suspicion of stealing about $469,000 from the district over seven years.

• The Blaine school board unanimously passed a reduced education program that contained $390,000 in budget reductions and adjustments for the remainder of the 2010/2011 school year.

• The sale of the Semiahmoo Resort and Semiahmoo and Loomis Trail golf courses fell through after the potential buyer could not come up with the money on time.

• Following public outcry from the arrest of Lynden resident Wayne Groen, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) held a public meeting about CBP procedures. The meeting was attended by nearly 200 local residents.

• Union Bank foreclosed on the Horizons at Semiahmoo planned community after its owner failed to repay $43 million in loans.

• Blaine City Council delayed a vote on a resolution that would express the council’s support for the $600 million Gateway
Pacific Terminal proposed for the Cherry Point area just south of Birch Bay.

• Blaine’s high school wrestling team sent six wrestlers to the state tournament in Tacoma.


• U.S. Census figures for 2010 showed Birch Bay grew by 70 percent since 2000, making it the second-fastest growing community in Whatcom County.

• Seattle-based shipping terminal company SSA Marine announced a contract with Peabody Coal to ship 24 million tons of coal out of the $600 million Gateway Pacific Terminal
proposed for the Cherry Point industrial area, just south of  Birch Bay.

• Birch Bay Water and Sewer District announced plans to tighten its financial controls after former treasurer Glenn Golay was arrested on suspicion of stealing $469,000 from the district over seven years. Golay pleaded not guilty.

• Whatcom County Auditor Shirley Forslof announced her retirement after serving 24 years in the position.

• North Whatcom Fire and Rescue officials threatened legal action to collect impact fees from a landowner seeking to build four storage buildings in Birch Bay.

• Whatcom County public works started the bidding process for $3.9 million worth of Lincoln Road improvements.

• Chief deputy county auditor Debbie Adelstein announced her candidacy for the county auditor position.


• The Blaine school district’s $30 million bond initiative, which would have paid for upgrades to most of the district’s school buildings, failed by less than one percent of the vote.

• Lynden resident Wayne Groen was found guilty of incapacitating the pilot of a CBP helicopter after he shined a high-powered flashlight at the aircraft as it hovered above his house on September 22, 2010.

• State financial regulators imposed fines on Jim Wynstra, CEO of Lynden-based development company Homestead Northwest, for allegedly selling millions of dollars worth of unregulated real estate investments.

• Whatcom County Council members were reminded of their  role in voting on the necessary permits for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal after county council member Tony Larson tried to introduce a resolution that would have expressed the council’s support for the project.

• Ken Oplinger, a Blaine planning commissioner and president of the Bellingham/Whatcom County Chamber of Commerce and Industry, announced his candidacy for the Blaine City Council position after John Liebert said he wouldn’t run again.

• Whatcom County Council voted 5-2 to allow drive-through food services in land zoned resort commercial, which includes 323 acres in Birch Bay.

• The renovated gym at Bay Horizon Park in Birch Bay opened for business.

• The Blaine school board approved $1.6 million in budget changes and reductions for the 2011/2012 school year.


• Washington State Supreme Court ruled in favor of North Whatcom Fire and Rescue, ending a five-year debate between the district and Whatcom County over which entity should decide if the district is capable of providing emergency service support to housing developments in the Birch Bay area.

• Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen announced he had no plans to seek re-election as county executive, but did put his name in the hat for the Whatcom County Council seat held by Tony Larson.

• Blaine City Council voted 5-2 to ban fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

• Improvement work began on the section of Lincoln Road from Harborview to Shintaffer in Birch Bay.

• Blaine High School golfer Ryan Wallen won his second state championship.

• Blaine High School runner Cherish Morrison won two 2011 state track and field titles while the girls track and field team came in third in state competition.


• Whatcom County Council voted unanimously to allow horse-drawn carriages on Birch Bay Drive year-round.

• State senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) announced his candidacy for Whatcom County Executive.

• Seattle-based shipping terminal company SSA Marine
submitted the necessary permits to Whatcom County for construction of the $600 million
Gateway Pacific Terminal proposed for the Cherry Point area just south of Birch Bay. County planning staff later rejected one of the permits as incomplete.

• Former Blaine mayor Art Lawrenson died at age 82.

• Birch Bay’s C Shop celebrated 40 years in business.

• A state audit audit confirmed former Birch Bay Water and Sewer District treasure Glenn Golay stole $468,840 from the district over the past seven years.

See next week’s issue for July through December of the year in review.