Whatcom County Council to consider fully funding Birch Bay incorporation feasibility study

Sidhu, Elenbaas to answer questions at May 16 community meeting


Whatcom County Council is anticipated to vote in June on providing crucial funding for Birch Bay incorporation efforts through a feasibility study that would provide a clearer picture of costs associated with Birch Bay becoming its own city.

“A feasibility study produced by an independent, third-party consultant is going to be far more credible than anything we can put together,” said Matt Berry, chair of the Birch Bay Incorporation Association (BBIA). “I think that’s the information the community needs to make a decision on how they wish to be governed.”

County executive Satpal Sidhu and councilmember Ben Elenbaas, who represents Birch Bay, will be answering questions at the upcoming BBIA meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 16. The meeting will be held at North Bay Community Church, 4895 Birch Bay-Lynden Road in Birch Bay, and on Zoom at bit.ly/3Qy9aUy.

BBIA is accepting questions for Sidhu and Elenbaas at bit.ly/4bov6cK. Questions can be submitted until the meeting starts, and there will be opportunity for attendees to ask questions at the meeting, Berry said.

Whatcom County’s comprehensive plan, which provides a framework for future planning, states county officials should “actively support incorporation as appropriate” in Birch Bay. Berry started incorporation efforts last spring in an attempt to bring better representation to the area. BBIA was formally established last November, in part, to show county government it was serious about incorporation.

Sidhu has requested Whatcom County Planning and Development Services bring a budget request to county council for up to $200,000 to fully fund an updated feasibility study, wrote Jed Holmes, spokesperson for the executive’s office, in an email to The Northern Light. The study would build upon a 2008 incorporation feasibility study that provided information on projected city operating costs and tax revenue at the time.

If council approves the funding, the study could start as soon as early fall after the county selects an independent contractor, Holmes wrote. The feasibility study could be finished this time next year, though Holmes cautioned that would be best case scenario.

“The county executive’s office wants to be supportive of the process and provide an opportunity for an objective and balanced exploration of what incorporation could look like,” Holmes wrote.

BBIA is continuing to reach as many stakeholders possible for input on incorporation, Berry said. The association has prepared a survey on services most important to residents that will guide cost estimates in the feasibility study. BBIA released the survey at shorturl.at/wzBL0 on May 7 and it will close July 7.

After the feasibility study is finished, BBIA will determine whether it wants to pursue the multi-year public process of pursuing incorporation. The road to incorporation has many steps, including receiving signatures from at least 10 percent of voters within the proposed city to put incorporation on ballots.

The proposed city boundaries mirror Birch Bay’s urban growth area. If incorporated, Birch Bay would become the fourth largest city in Whatcom County.

For more information on BBIA, visit incorporatebirchbay.com.


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