By Stefanie Donahue
Birch Bay is inching closer to getting a library of its own after the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) board of trustees voted to enter into negotiations on a property last month.
At a meeting on March 28, the WCLS board of trustees voted 4–1 to authorize a two-member finance committee and executive director Christine Perkins to negotiate a price with a broker for a property offered by Gary and Cindy Lou Vogt last year.
During the meeting, the board voted to amend the WCLS facilities policy to provide increased authority to the district to purchase a property “on occasions when it really just makes sense,” Perkins said after the meeting.
Adopted in 2007, the policy outlines methods and constraints to owning and operating library facilities within the WCLS jurisdiction. Historically, WCLS has worked with property owners to rent spaces for its public facilities; this amendment aims to provide more flexibility to WCLS to purchase property on its own, she explained.
On the table is an 0.86-acre
property located at 7968 Birch Bay Drive. In September, the Vogt family offered the Craftsman-style house to WCLS or a “Friends of the Library” organization for $750,000. Since then, the WCLS board of trustees released a public survey and spent $50,000 on a site assessment to gauge the need and plausibility of a new library
The findings of the assessment were presented to the board back in December and were revisited during the March 28 meeting, Perkins said. The board offered a mixed response to the property’s location, which is central to Birch Bay but
susceptible to flood and storm damage due to its proximity to the waterfront.
During the assessment, WCLS discovered shell middens, indicating the site may contain historic artifacts. If they were to move forward with the site, they’d have to be careful not to disturb the land with construction, Perkins said.
“[The board is] very appreciative of the Vogt family,” she said. “They know that there are some inherent limitations with any property along Birch Bay Drive.”
In January, the board asked Perkins to meet with real estate broker Pat Jerns to discuss the property. With the board’s recent vote, things are starting to come together, she said.
“I think it will probably take some time,” Perkins said. “Our board is trying to be as diligent as possible.”