Council to vote on beachside park

by Ian Ferguson

The Whatcom County Council will decide on October 28 whether to spend up to $2.5 million of the county budget to buy a four-acre property in the heart of Birch Bay for a future beachside park.

Council introduced the item at their last meeting October 14. They had discussed the item with county executive Jack Louws at an executive session Beach-ParkSeptember 30.

“The appraisal was done and there were no surprises,” said councilman Ken Mann. “I think it’s a great piece of property, I think it would be good for the community and I’m certainly hopeful that it will come together.”

Mann cautioned that there is still work to be done before the park can be called a sure thing.

“We’re still doing our due diligence, and we are still going through the real estate transaction. It’s a major expense, and real estate is tricky,” Mann said.

The desired property is a 4.11-acre parcel at 7954 Birch Bay Drive. Owned by the Vogt family, the property is located just north of the Birch Bay Visitor Center. The county hired an independent consultant to appraise the property, and as of July 3, the market value of the property was determined to be $2.4 million. The land is zoned Resort Commercial, and fronts the water in the middle of Birch Bay.

Birch Bay residents convinced county council of the need for a beachside park including restrooms and parking in Birch Bay last spring. A park fulfilling those needs has been a request of the community for decades; an item in the future needs section of the 2004 Birch Bay subarea plan of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan called for public parking and restrooms in one to three county parks along Birch Bay Drive, and the Birch Bay Comprehensive Plan drafted in 1977 included similar requests.

Through several public meetings with the Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Commission, Birch Bay residents debated over which of two properties to try and purchase for a future park, and the commission ultimately decided on the Vogt property.

On October 28 county council will vote on whether to authorize setting aside up to $2.5 million of the county budget to purchase the property. The purchase price is $2.4 million and closing costs are estimated to be $55,410.50. Tyler Schroeder, project manager in the county executive’s office, said a public hearing would not be held because of numerous chances for public involvement in the process over the summer.

“If anyone wants to comment on the matter, they are always welcome to email the council or the executive’s office,” Schroeder said.

Email addresses for county council and the executive’s office can be found on the county website, co.whatcom.wa.us.

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