Group gets ready for next big issue

Published on Thu, Dec 6, 2001 by Jack Kintner

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Group gets ready for next big issue

By Jack Kintner

The Birch Bay Steering Committee refined their land use and transportation drafts at their regular meeting held November 28 at Birch Bay Leisure Park, leaving the governance issue for January.

“We need to get these parts done before getting into the next big issue, and governance will be a big one,” said steering committee vice chair Kathy Berg.

Chair Meg Grable opened the meeting by reading a letter from Michael Abendhoff, manager of government and public affairs for BP’s Cherry Point Refinery, in which he outlined the refinery’s opposition to the steering committee’s current draft of its land use plan as a violation of an “understanding” agreed upon when the refinery was built in 1971.

The letter detailed how BP’s “vision for the future” is that other industrial companies will occupy the land west of their property, the last available parcel adjacent to a deep-water port in the area. “The current land use draft plan is a step backward, and does not recognize the need for industrial growth zones in Whatcom County. We would not support the plan in its current form,” Abendhoff wrote.

The land use draft designates the land west of the refinery, mostly owned by the Trillium Corporation and intended for residential development, as divided between single-family low density residential and private recreational open space, except for a strip of land bordering the west side of the refinery that is marked industrial. Grable read the letter as informational.

One change that has taken place since the last meeting is a road closure near the west end of Birch-Bay-Lynden Road.

Drivers intending to go north on Birch Bay Drive have frequently taken Morgan Drive as a short cut, turning left on Cottonwood, but a traffic barrier now closes off the upper end of Cottonwood Drive. “This has changed traffic flow enough that counts will have to be repeated,” said consultant Mart Kask.

He emphasized that, in his opinion, this does not change the fact that the best way to eliminate traffic on Birch Bay Drive is to push Lincoln Road through all the way from Shintaffer Road to the freeway, which requires a bridge across California Creek and a freeway interchange.

“It’s expensive, but we should ride that horse ‘til it dies if we want to get the cars off Birch Bay Drive, one of the basic goals of this committee,” Kask said.

Bill Grant, among others, expressed skepticism that it would be worth doing, wondering if the expense and time couldn’t be better spent on another part of the plan and focus traffic coming from the east onto a four-lane Birch Bay-Lynden Road.

Goals and policy statements took up the rest of the meeting, where the consultants received committee guidance to further refine their vision statements that describe what Birch Bay will hopefully become in 20 years. The general vision statements were left intact, but several specific goals were suggested to be added to the list, among them one by Mike Ross of the Terrell Creek neighborhood who pushed for a specific item preserving the land around the mouth of Terrell Creek as it flows behind the beach and then turns left into the bay.

“Some say that it stinks, it’s half salt water and nothing lives there,” he said, “but it’s an estuary, one of the most important parts of the whole Terrell Creek ecosystem. This plan designates the little strip of land between the beach and the creek as available for condos, but that’s a terrible idea.”

When asked by Milliken if he didn’t just want to say something about preservation in general that would include sites such as this, Ross responded, “No, make that a specific goal. We don’t want to see it end up under a long culvert.”

The committee meets next on Wednesday evening, December 12, and will consider this issue as it looks at critical areas and shorelines, parks, recreational and open space and housing. On Saturday, December 15 there will be an all-day community presentation on the committee’s drafts of plans thus far, beginning at 10 a.m. at Birch Bay Leisure Park..

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