County proposes rezone for properties in east Birch Bay

Published on Fri, Aug 12, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Whatcom County Planning and Development Services (PDS) just sent out an email saying it's seeking public comment on a proposed rezone for a portion of land in Birch Bay that used to be in the Birch Bay urban growth area (UGA).

The land in question lies on the west side of Blaine Road, between Birch Bay-Lynden and Alderson roads. The change would reduce the zoning density from one dwelling per five acres (R5A) to one dwelling per 10 acres (R10A). The county is doing this because of a decision it originally made in November 2009.

In November 2009, the Whatcom County Council removed 770 acres from the Birch Bay UGA because the county felt the UGA was too large. This change "downzoned" the area from four houses per acre (UR4) to R10A. In December of 2010, the county council voted to upzone the same land from R10A to R5A. Council member Sam Crawford submitted this change because he felt the downzoning was unfair to landowners in the area.

The council's 2010 decision was apparently appealed to the county Growth Management Hearings Board, and in July 2011 the board upheld the rezone from R10A to R5A, except for areas in the 100-year floodplain.

So now the county is in the process of rezoning the land in the 100-year floodplain back to R10A. Just to be clear, the county is not attempting to rezone all 770 acres zoned R5A, just the portions in the floodplain. The county planning commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed rezone at its September 8 meeting. County PDS anticipates the county council will vote an a rezoning ordinance in October.

The planning commission meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 8, at 5280 Northwest Drive in Bellingham.
Just got off the phone with Aamot; the meeting might not actually be at the 5280 Northwest Drive location due to another hearing that could take precedence. A location for the rezone hearing has not been set.

Public comments on the proposed rezone can be sent to senior county planner Matt Aamot at

Here's a collection of maps the county released showing two rezoning alternatives. Alternative 2 appears to rezone more acreage.

Alternative 1

Alternative 1 with flood overlay

Alternative 1 with wetlands and stream overlay

Alternative 2

Alternative 2 with flood overlay

Alternative 2 with wetlands and stream overlay

Click here for PDS's webpage dedicated to the rezone. Click here for my story from December 2010 on the original rezone from  R10A to R5A.


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