City pairs with Beckwith Consulting to foster growth

By Steve Guntli

The name “Beckwith Consulting” has been floating around at a lot of public meetings in recent months, but many are still unclear as to what Beckwith’s role is in Blaine. City manager Dave Wilbrecht recently took time to clarify the firm’s role in the city.

On June 1, Wilbrecht spoke at a Blaine Chamber of Commerce meeting to discuss the city’s partnership with La Conner-based Beckwith Consulting and what the city expects out of the relationship. According to Wilbrecht, the city has teamed with the company to foster economic growth and facilitate long-held plans for the city.

Company principal Tom Beckwith and his staff specialize in city planning and development. The company was established in 1983 and has worked on many projects, ranging from urban planning and designs to shoreline restoration.

Wilbrecht said bringing Beckwith into the fold has helped the city implement some of their ideas.

“We started a committee, the economic development advisory committee (EDAC), to help encourage growth in the city,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of great ideas, but we didn’t have a solid plan in place. We needed a community planner like Beckwith to help solidify those plans and get them in motion.”

One of the city’s first priorities is the derelict buildings along Peace Portal Drive. According to Wilbrecht, as of March 22, 22 buildings in Blaine were considered derelict. Wilbrecht said the city has begun issuing letters to the owners of abandoned or run-down buildings throughout the city, informing them they need to get their structures up to code or face heavy fines. So far, 38 letters have been issued, and of those, 17 have been acknowledged and 12 have been resolved. The remaining nine business owners have yet to respond to the notices.

Wilbrecht said Beckwith will help the city prioritize the many citizen requests for improvements around the city.

“We’ve had people from the Salishan neighborhood, for example, who have taken a keen interest in preserving the waterfront views along Peace Portal,” Wilbrecht said. “They’ve been very organized and have worked out a whole plan of action for how they see that happening, but we haven’t been able to give them a solid timeline. Beckwith will help us get things organized, so we can tell people in that neighborhood where they stand.”

Beckwith is using the city of Chehalis as a model for its work with Blaine. In 2008, city officials in Chehalis formed a unified group of businesses, citizens and city employees to work together to energize growth in the city.

Subsequently, Beckwith Consulting won several awards for its work in Chehalis, including the Governor’s Smart Choices Award and the Honor Award from the American Planning Association.

Beckwith will help the city form an action plan to determine the list of priorities, based on a series of surveys. Wilbrecht’s hope is that the action plan will be completed by later this summer, so the city can add infrastructure projects that will facilitate growth to the ballot in November.

“The truth is, the needs for this city are increasing, but our revenue is staying the same,” Wilbrecht said. “If we want to get these projects off the ground, we can’t just tax people. We have to grow.”

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