Birch Bay committee moves towards land use plan
By Meg Olson
Consultant Mart Kask projects that by 2020, Birch Bays population will more than double, increasing to at least 11,000 residents. But because many residents will be retired, the area will employ less than 3,000 people.
While presenting population and business growth projections to the Birch Bay Steering Committee June 12, Kask said his forecast was based not on current employment numbers which would be difficult and expensive to obtain because the county lumps the entire unincorporated county together but on how the area, whether it incorporates into a city or not, will look in 20 years.
Kask said most towns have 40 percent employment but, because Birch Bay will likely continue to attract retirees, that percentage will be less. Birch Bay of the future will have more than a third of its workforce in the non-retail services sector, which includes medicine and nursing homes as well as tourism and hospitality.
The employment numbers do not necessarily represent only people who live in Birch Bay but the workforce necessary to take care of the population of the area. Many people living in Birch Bay might work somewhere else.
Some committee members disagreed with the projected numbers. Mark Lawrence thought Kasks figures for the construction sector were off. If Birch Bay was going to more than double its population and housing stock in twenty years, that number would have to be revised. Thirty employees in construction is way too low, he said. Theres probably 30 working in town right now.
Kask presented a revised population forecast saying his earlier numbers had been skewed by a three-year moratorium on growth in the early 90s. At that time, the Birch Bay area did not have access to water. Consequently, growth in the past decade happened in seven years instead of ten. He adjusted the curve accordingly, increasing his projections by 13 percent. New projections range from 13,390 to 11,104.
Further complicating the forecast, Birch Bay didnt even exist as a discrete data point in the 1980 census, so there is no starting point for projections. Detailed population and employment data is not yet available from the 2000 census.
Reporting on housing and land consumption numbers, consultant Pat Milliken said he counted 3,362 housing units currently in Birch Bay; 87 percent were designated as single-family dwellings. The remaining structures are designated as multifamily residences. The Central Reaches neighborhood along Birch Bay Drive had the majority of apartments and condos, 345 of the 429 total. Trailers and motor homes were not counted as housing units although manufactured homes were.
At current growth levels, Birch Bay would have 8,635 housing units by 2020, Kask said. Kask though thinks that these numbers will change to a more urban 70-30 mix with more apartments and condos cropping up around the bay for retirees.
The numbers in Kasks report are meant to guide the committee in setting aside property for homes and businesses. His housing forecast calls for more than 1800 acres of land to accommodate the population increase. Residential single family housing at three homes per acre in Birch Bay would need 1,406 acres by 2020 to support current growth. The area would also need a half square mile of services and retail space.
The committee members will now take these forecasts into account as it prepares the advisory it will present to the county council this fall. Birch Bay will grow. We on the committee can make this growth greater or less depending on what we do, Bill Grant, committee member from Central Reaches, said.
The committee will discuss four different business and industrial zones at its next meeting 7 p.m. June 27 at District 13s Birch Bay Fire Station. One option would be to maintain the status quo, with most businesses along Birch Bay Drive and a few business spread out around the area. Other options would be to make neighborhood nodes at major intersections where business would be clustered, center all business along the bay or even set aside large parcels for shopping centers along Blaine Road.
Kask believes siting commercial space is the most important aspect of community planning. With commercial zones decided it will be easier to figure out where businesses will go, then we can decide where single family homes, schools and community centers will go.
There are nine neighborhood meetings planned for the next week. On Saturday, Central Reaches meets from 10 11:30 a.m., State Park from noon 1:30 p.m., Cottonwood Reach from 2 3:30 p.m. The Saturday meetings are at the fire station. On Tuesday, Birch Point meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the fire station. Birch Bay Village Reach meets 7:30 to 9 p.m. at the Birch Bay Village Clubhouse. On Thursday, June 21, two neighborhood committees will meet at Bay Horizon Park: Terrell Creek group meets from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and Point Whitehorn, 7:30 to 9 p.m.