Design standards likely to change in downtown Blaine

A map of Blaine’s Central Business District, shown in red. Illustration courtesy of the city of Blaine

Planning commissioners approve recommendation for Blaine City Council.

By Stefanie Donahue

A proposal to change building and site design regulations within Blaine’s Central Business District (CBD) received approval from the Blaine Planning Commission last week following a lengthy deliberation.

The changes come in the form of a zoning text amendment and zoning map amendment, which require final approval from Blaine City Council. During the last of several planning commission meetings held to discuss the CBD, commissioners voted on April 26 to recommend Blaine City Council approve both amendments.

Interim city manager and community development director Michael Jones said the city council will likely review the commission’s recommendation in May.

The CBD encompasses Blaine’s downtown core as well as surrounding residential areas and the harbor. Its building and site design standards have been the aim of an ongoing evaluation led by the city and commission with help from Seattle-based Makers Architecture and Urban Design.

The city contracted the firm to assist with the project last year for $29,315, Jones said.

In addition to making building and site design regulations more clear, the zoning text amendment also drops a requirement for property owners on the west side of Peace Portal Drive to build a portion of boardwalk when they remodel or develop.

Instead, they’ll need to connect to the boardwalk where applicable. New and major construction must also dedicate a 20-foot wide easement for the purpose of constructing and maintaining the boardwalk as a public project.

The amendment also includes a restriction on where mail handling and shipping businesses can operate within the CBD.

If approved by Blaine City Council, mail handling and shipping businesses will not be permitted in the CBD’s waterview subdistrict (located on the west side of Peace Portal Drive) or in the garden subdistrict (located near the Salishan neighborhood).

Other subdistricts within the CBD will still allow them. Additionally, any mail handling and shipping businesses currently operating in the waterview or garden subdistrict will be considered non-conforming and will not be permitted to expand if the zoning text amendment is approved.

“The concern being that we have an overabundance of these businesses in our downtown and they are potentially adversely affecting the business climate,” Jones said to the commission.

Adding, “And while I think they’re a great contributor to the sales tax base, and they’re a great contributor to people coming into town, having more of them in our downtown may not really be healthy.”

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