Planning commissioners green light proposal targeted at development along SR-543, final vote required from city

By Stefanie Donahue

The Blaine Planning Commission approved a citizen-sponsored amendment proposal on July 28 aimed at reducing the amount of permitted space between gasoline service stations and locations considered “sensitive” within the Gateway Zoning District.

Bordered by SR-543, E Street and Pipeline Road, the district serves a high-traffic community and is proximate to sensitive spaces within the city, including the Blaine school campus as well as Lincoln and Skallman parks.

The unanimous vote of approval by the four present commissioners now requires a final vote from the Blaine City Council, which is likely to occur in September, said Blaine’s community development director Michael Jones.

On behalf of Yorkston Oil Co. Heather Wolf appeared in front of commissioners on July 28 regarding a request to amend the law she filed on behalf of the company in June 2016. Yorkston Oil is based out of Bellingham and operates several locations throughout western Washington, including a 4-acre property within the gateway district on Boblett Road. The location is not eligible for expansion under existing law, which was established in 1990.

A total of 300 feet is currently required between gas stations and parks, playgrounds, churches, schools and places of public assembly within the district. The proposal recommends a reduction in the buffer from 300 to 200 feet.

If approved by the city in September, Wolf said Yorkston plans to redevelop the existing station and construct a new property in another high-traffic location they already own along SR-543.

In accordance with the State Environmental Policy Act, the city conducted a review and found no cause for concern to public safety if the amendment were to receive approval.

In fact, the existing barrier required between service stations and “sensitive” locations throughout the city exceeds minimum requirements imposed by international fire code, which requires 100 feet of buffer for gasoline service station capable of storing 1 million gallons of gasoline.

The report details statistics on neighboring locations throughout the county. In Lynden, for example, 300 feet is required between service stations and locations deemed “sensitive” by the city. Ferndale requires a 500-foot distance, unless located on an intersection. In that case, a 250-foot barrier is permitted.

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