Just months after the first Birch Bay governance survey was released to the public, another survey has opened to include input from unincorporated residents just outside of the Birch Bay urban growth area. The survey deadline is Wednesday, August 16.
The Birch Bay Community PAC released the initial month-long survey in April to gauge the community’s interest in incorporating as a city or annexing into Blaine. After looking over feedback, lead organizer Matt Berry said he decided to open a second survey to residents directly outside of the Birch Bay urban growth area, including those in the Birch Point, Drayton Harbor, Pleasant Valley and Point White Horn areas.
The latest survey has eight questions and is anticipated to take about five minutes. Results from both surveys will be used to plan future Birch Bay governance.
The Birch Bay Incorporation Committee, which has about 50 members, is separate from the PAC and in charge of the incorporation process. The committee aims to have the proposed Birch Bay city boundaries by fall, Berry said, and then will hold a public hearing for additional community input.
“We are hoping to get the ball rolling with a notice of proposed incorporation as soon as we have an idea on the opinions of the surrounding areas,” Berry said. “We don’t want to leave anyone out but we also don’t want to include people who would prefer to remain in unincorporated Whatcom County.”
The initial survey has garnered about 500 responses, which Berry said is more than double the responses the port of Bellingham received on a survey on Birch Bay issues, including community governance, in the early 2000s.
About 54.5 percent of people who responded to the initial survey supported incorporation and another 16.5 percent were interested in incorporation, according to the Birch Bay Community PAC. About 29 percent of survey-takers were opposed to incorporation.
The first survey respondents voiced favor for local control, improved services, keeping tax dollars in Birch Bay, growth management, post office and grocery store access and improved representation by elected officials, according to the Birch Bay Community PAC. Concerns regarding incorporation surrounded higher taxes and the cost of operating a city, which Berry said will be addressed in a future feasibility study.
The Birch Bay Incorporation Committee will submit a notice of intent to Whatcom County, circulate an incorporation petition that requires signatures from at least 10 percent of voters in the proposed city, decide on the governing structure and facilitate a feasibility study. The last step will be for the Whatcom County Boundary Review Board to review the proposal.
Berry said he initiated the incorporation efforts earlier this year after watching Birch Bay’s population increase while services, such as law enforcement presence, haven’t matched the growth.
“We’re going to see a decline in the quality of life,” he said.
Birch Bay has a population of about 10,000 people, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. If incorporated, Birch Bay would be the fourth largest city in Whatcom County behind Bellingham, Lynden and Ferndale.
“It’s something that probably should have happened years ago but it didn’t, and now seems to be a good time because there’s a lot of momentum in the community,” Berry said.
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