Year in Review 2017: A look back at the year that was

January

• Representatives from US and Canadian border agencies, Washington State Department of Transportation, US General Services Administration and other agencies discussed making the Peace Arch border crossing more accessible for walkers and bicyclists. The December 20 meeting was held to revive a plan that stalled after BC Parks built a sidewalk from Canada Border Services Agency offices to the border monument in 2011.

• The swearing in of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States on January 20 spurred a flurry of demonstrations close to home. The Bellingham NoDAPL Coalition organized a three-hour demonstration to advocate for the protection of treaty rights and freedom of religion, among other things, at Peace Arch Park on January 20. The next day, local residents joined various women’s marches, some of which took place in Bellingham and Washington D.C.

• Blaine City Council voted in favor of forming a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) on January 23. City staff recommended the city council form the district in order to place a sales tax measure on the ballot to fund transportation projects for streets, sidewalks and trails.

• Steve Hrutfiord and Larry Wonnacott joined the planning commission on January 23.

• State senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) confirmed that he would join 10 officials at the Environmental Protection Agency to aid with the presidential administration’s transition.

• Alan Finston, owner of Blaine-based Whatcom Physical Therapy, announced the purchase of the former Bank of America building, located at 277 G Street, for $372,500. On January 26, Finston aired intentions to open a wine bar and event space at the location if the city council approved a code amendment to allow restaurants and food trucks in the Town Portal
District.

• An upwards of 1,000 people flocked to Peace Arch Park on January 29 for a rally held in response to an executive order issued by President Donald Trump. The order halted all refugee admission for 120 days, indefinitely banned Syrian refugees from admission and prohibited individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 90 days.

• Todd Damon took the helm as Birch Bay neighborhood deputy and replaced Mike King.

Todd Damon

February

• Critics of state senator Doug Ericksen’s (R-Ferndale) choice to dually serve the state legislature and the presidential administration in D.C. filed paperwork to initiate a recall.

• Canadian demonstrators converged at Peace Arch Park on February 12 to protest President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration. Jenny Kwan, a member of Parliament, spoke.

• On February 13, Blaine City Council voted to amend the Wharf District Master Plan (WDMP), allowing Sundance Yachts to build a boat storage facility on Marine Drive. Down the line, company staff plan to construct a 60,000-square-foot, $9 million boat storage facility.

• Blaine City Council voted on February 13 to place a sales tax measure on the April special election ballot. If approved by a simple majority of voters, the city would see a 0.2 percent sales tax hike to generate an estimated $200,000 for transportation projects over the next 10 years.

• The 17th annual Bite of Blaine featured dishes from Big Al’s Diner, the Blaine Senior Center, Chada Thai, Drayton Harbor Oyster Company, Edaleen Dairy, the Good Samaritan Society-Stafholt, Lizzie’s Cafe, Paso del Norte, Pastime Bar and Eatery, Pizza Factory, Semiahmoo Resort, Subway and Sweet Tangerine on February 20 at Semiahmoo Resort.

• Murray Goff, local retailer and lifelong Blaine resident, died at the age of 91 due to illness. Goff operated Goff’s Department Store for more than 56 years in downtown Blaine.

• Whatcom County design and construction manager Jim Karcher announced on February 21 the county had obtained about half the permits and most of the land it needed to begin construction on the 1.6-mile Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility Project, often called the Birch Bay berm.

• Blaine City Council voted on February 27 to approve an agreement to transfer a portion of land in Semiahmoo to the Lummi Nation. The agreement dates back to 2001 and stems from an incident that took place in the late ’90s, when the city was expanding its existing wastewater treatment facility at Semiahmoo Spit. During construction, crews dug and removed human remains and Lummi artifacts from the site, which is a former Lummi village.

• Blaine’s first brewery, Atwood Ales, celebrated its one-year anniversary since opening.

• Former Blaine teacher, middle school basketball coach and sports game announcer John Liebert retired. He coached basketball for 20 years in North Dakota before moving to Blaine.

Evelyn Bonallo and Jerry Bladies

• Blaine City Council voted on February 27 to approve a 1,450-foot extension of sewer line through Lincoln Park and along D Street. Construction began at the end of March in order to spur three medium-to-large development projects awaiting infrastructure in east Blaine.

March 

• Dank of America, a cannabis store, opened at 2530 Peace Portal Drive on March 6.

• The 15th annual Wings Over Water Northwest Birding Festival took place March 10–12. It featured field trips and excursions, an all-day birding expo, crafts, wildlife exhibits and speakers.

• The Port of Bellingham awarded $65,000 to Blaine, Lynden, Ferndale and Everson to support economic development projects. The city agreed to match the funds and received $15,000 to pay for the design of an access route on the west side of Peace Portal Drive, south of Marine Drive.

• Blaine school district announced plans to start a new six-week summer program called Bright K to prepare students for kindergarten. The district hoped to enroll 45 kids for the pilot program.

• On March 19, Ken Imus, the mastermind behind successful developments spanning from Fairhaven to Blaine, passed away at age 90. He was the leading force behind the revitalization of Bellingham’s Fairhaven Historic District in the early 1970s and later went on to purchase and renovate a number of storefronts in Blaine’s downtown.

• Whatcom County Library System board of trustees voted 4–1 on March 28 to authorize a two-member finance committee and executive director Christine Perkins to negotiate a price with a broker for a property, located at 7986 Birch Bay Drive, offered by Gary and Cindy Lou Vogt.

• With a combined 17,180 hours of service at the Blaine Food Bank, volunteers Evelyn Bonallo and Jerry Bladies were honored with The President’s Volunteer Service Award for lifetime achievement on behalf of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

April

• On April 10, representatives from Chuckanut Bay Foods publicly confirmed their interest in building a production facility on an estimated 2-acre plot of land at the site of the former Blaine Municipal Airport. Blaine City Council issued a counter offer in closed session.

• The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office announced the installation of All Hazards Alert Broadcast (AHAB) sirens in Blaine and Birch Bay. The sirens, also known as tsunami warning sirens, are capable of voice and tone alerts and can be controlled by state officials, emergency services personnel and the fire district.

• The WCLS board of trustees voted on April 18 to allow its executive director, Christine Perkins, to sign a purchase agreement for the Vogt property at 7986 Birch Bay Drive.

• On April 21, the state senate approved a bill that allocated millions of dollars of transportation project funding to agencies throughout the state. Blaine’s I-5/Exit 274 interchange project was allotted $12.1 million to begin the first phase. Final approval was contingent on Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

• Whatcom County Council unanimously approved the Birch Bay Community Park Master Plan on April 18. The plan for the approximately 4.1-acre beachside park calls for about 124 parking spaces, a public restroom, beach access, a natural play area and several acres of open space dotted with trees and picnic tables.

• Blaine voters come out in favor of a measure to raise the sales tax by 0.2 percent to generate an estimated $200,000 per year for the next 10 years for transportation projects to improve sidewalks and trails, for example.

Hands Across the Border 2017.

May

• Effective May 1, Columbia Hospitality announced a sweeping acquisition consisting of multiple management agreements and other assets from Coastal Hotels, the firm behind Semiahmoo Resort, Golf and Spa. The firm now manages Semiahmoo Resort, Golf and Spa; the Semiahmoo Golf and Country Club; the Loomis Trail Golf Club and two other golf courses.

• Local boaters hosted Blaine’s annual Blessing of the Fleet and Seafarers Memorial on May 7 at the Blaine Boating Center to honor fisherman who have been lost at sea. Selena Rogers-Pai and Malie Laolagi performed a duet. Blaine High School band students also played music.

• The city of Blaine issued an order to demolish the former Costa Azul restaurant building at 665 Peace Portal Drive after finding it in decay, pest-ridden and structurally unsound.

• The Bellingham Sail and Power Squadron (BSPS) hosted the SeaSkills Marine Expo on May 13 at Marine Drive. The event featured training exercises and demonstrations vendor exhibitions.

• On May 16, Governor Jay Inslee vetoed the I-5/Exit 274 interchange project from a sweeping transportation bill that was passed by the state senate in April, citing lack of information. His signature was the last step remaining before $12.1 million was allotted for the project.

• Blaine City Councilmembers Bonnie Onyon, Charlie Hawkins, Paul Greenough and Harry Robinson confirmed re-election bids. Four council seats were up for election on November 7.

June 

• After 31 years of teaching music, Andy Harmening retired from the Blaine school district. He joined a total of seven employees who announced their retirement from the district, including Kathy Swindler, Nancy DePauw, Carey Bacon, Muriel Ridnour, John Selinger and Maria Slack.

• The International Peace Arch Association (IPAA) hosted Hands Across the Border on June 11 at Peace Arch State and Provincial parks.

• Blaine City Council voted on June 12 to approve an Interlocal Jail Facility Financing and Use Agreement between Whatcom County and all cities within its jurisdiction to place a sales tax measure on the general election ballot to fund a new jail facility on LaBounty Road in Ferndale.

• The Port of Bellingham board of commissioners voted to award $899,389 contract, including a 20 percent contingency reserve, to Tacoma-based American Construction to tackle the second phase of a three-part project to improve the industrial area near the end of Blaine’s Marine Drive.

Read part two of our 2017 retrospective next week.

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