Public comment period closes for proposed apartment complex

Blaine Planning Commission to host a study session on January 11

By Stefanie Donahue

During a public comment period, a number of Blaine residents came forward to express concern about a proposal to develop a four-story, 41-unit apartment complex next to Dakota Creek, located at the southwest corner of Bell Road and Washington Avenue.

The project by developer Dakota Creek LLC, includes the construction of two buildings on a 2.2-acre site south of Pacific Building Center. If approved, the apartment complex would contain 25 two-bedroom units and 16 one-bedroom units. Latta Engineering is representing the developer and is asking the city to approve a number of zoning variances and permits.

The building site is located in a Planned Commercial District zone, which is primarily intended for commercial use, but allows for multi-family, residential development. Developments smaller than five acres require a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) and a Shoreline Development Permit, which requires a 90-foot setback from Dakota Creek’s high water mark.

Dakota Creek LLC would like to construct a 41-unit apartment complex at the property outlined above, next to Dakota Creek. Illustration by the city of Blaine

Per the rules of the CUP, the developers must adhere to highway commercial zoning requirements that limit building heights to 35 feet. Latta Engineering is asking the planning commission to approve a 5-foot building height increase to 40 feet and a 15-foot reduction in the 20-foot parking setback from
Washington Avenue.

During a regular meeting last week, the planning commission closed the public comment period. More than a dozen residents came forward to express concerns about the environmental impact, lack of open space and most of all, increased traffic.

“We feel that the added traffic congestion at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Bell Road (due to train backups, etc.) will significantly increase traffic on Washington and Runge avenues, both of which are sub-standard and lack the ability to deal with the increased traffic,” read a letter to the commission from Pacific Building Center owners and Blaine residents Robert and Pamela Christianson.

“I strongly feel that any such development as the proposed apartment complex south of Pacific Building Center be postponed until some solution is found to deal with the traffic delays caused by the train,” said Blaine resident Jack Kintner. “Since the mechanism that produces the delay, the gamma ray examiner just south of the Blaine Road/Peace Portal intersection, perhaps some grant money from the railroad or the feds can be secured to help pay for a sensible solution.”

Blaine community planner Alex Wenger said making traffic improvements to the Bell Road and Washington Avenue intersection is particularly challenging because it falls under the Washington State Department of Transportation’s jurisdiction.

“If you just count the number of cars that are on that road, there is low volume levels that would indicate that there is no traffic problem there, but staff is not suggesting that there is no traffic problem,” he said. “It would appear that the road has adequate capacity to move those vehicles along and there is
no traffic issue.”

Citing traffic engineering studies, Wenger said that on average, 60 percent of residents who live in apartment complexes leave their homes during peak traffic hours. Extrapolating to this specific project’s 41 units, around 17 cars will attempt to leave the site during peak hours. Despite the statistics, Wenger acknowledged that trains are a problem for travelers on the road.

“What this comes down to is, we don’t necessarily have a vehicle problem down there, we really have a train problem and that is a very difficult situation to fix,” he said. “The transportation fails down there because of the train.”

Moving forward, the planning commission will deliberate on the project at a study session slated to take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 11 at Blaine City Hall.

To learn more about the project, visit bit.ly/2oGwbKu.

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