City council approves next steps for H Street annexation

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After strong pushback during a May 10 public hearing, Blaine City Council voted 6-0 to move forward with the process of annexing two adjoining H Street properties. Councilmember Richard May abstained from voting.

Council’s approval does not fully green light the annexation of the properties at 4455 H Street and 2221 Cedarwood Lane, which together make up just under 5 acres.

For the annexation to be approved, the city of Blaine’s community development services director Stacie Pratschner said a draft ordinance will be presented at the next city council meeting. The ordinance will then go to the Whatcom County boundary review board, which acts as the appeal body for boundary decisions and will verify the annexation is consistent with Blaine’s urban growth area, Pratschner said. The county will ultimately approve or deny the annexation.

“What is before us tonight is whether the application was done in a proper and legal fashion and whether it merits going forward as an annexation,” councilmember Mary Lou Steward said during the meeting. “Once the property is annexed into the city of Blaine, what happens to it after that is not for our discussion this evening because there are way too many factors.”

The property was first brought before council during a January work-study session in which the community development services department informed council that Patrick Rooney, the landowner of the 3.2-acre H Street property, submitted an annexation request in November. An unincorporated 1.6-acre property to its west, 2221 Cedarwood Lane, borders city limits and entered a utility agreement in 2002 that gives the city authority to annex it. Raymond Pelletti, the Cedarwood Lane landowner, is opposed to future development on the proposed annexed areas.

Council had the option to approve, modify or deny the annexation request. City attorney Jon Sitkin attended the meeting to answer councilmembers’ questions.

The city received 11 letters in opposition to the annexation and none in favor, city clerk Sam Crawford said during the meeting. Opposition mostly questioned sufficiency of public notice, the 60-percent petition method – the most commonly used annexation method in Washington – that requires 60 percent of property owners in the proposed annexation to agree, and future zoning and development impacts.

Blaine resident Deborah Coleman said she was concerned potential development would change her neighborhood.

“We moved here for the peace and quiet, and that is why we live at the bottom of this hill. We like to enjoy the fact that our grandkids and our animals can run around. It’s safe out there and quiet,” she said during the hearing. “If this happens, it’s going to change the dynamic of the entire hill.”

Steward brought up that annexing the property does not guarantee Rooney will develop it. If annexed and eventually proposed for development, Pratschner said the property must be analyzed for traffic impacts, protection of critical areas and stormwater management.

Council was in agreement that they wanted the properties to be zoned as low-density, which Pratschner said could mean four to six single-family homes per acre on the H Street property.

However, if developed, the number of houses will depend on many factors that won’t be known until later. Such factors include wetland areas that could lower the number of houses built or accessory dwelling units that could increase the number.

May questioned if the community development services department often receives more opposition than support for vacant properties to build on, to which Pratschner replied that, anecdotally, it’s more likely that people who have concerns will submit testimony.

If approved, this would be the city of Blaine’s first annexation since 1996.

This article has been updated to correctly attribute Deborah Coleman's quote. We regret the error.

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