Blaine council bullish on growth
Blaine city council decided to be aggressive when it comes to how fat the city will grow in the next 20 years.
At their February 24 meeting, council voted unanimously to accept a staff recommendation to base city projections on a 2.3 percent growth rate, the highest of three proposed rates. City community and economic development director Terry Galvin said the state Growth Management Act (GMA) required the city to look 20 years into the future and plan for growth. �The GMA requires us to update our 1995 comprehensive plan,� he said. �The first step is to come up with population projections.�
City projections are based on a percentage of countywide projected growth assigned to Blaine by a committee of planners from the county and cities. �We project the county�s population and we each get a piece of that pie,� Galvin said.
Consulting firm ECONorthwest prepared projections for the county and for Blaine�s Urban Growth Area (UGA) which includes east of Blaine, west Semiahmoo, Loomis and south Drayton Harbor, all now outside the city limits. They calculated in 5,011 people living in the area, and looked at three potential growth rates. At the high rate of 2.3 percent the Blaine area would have just shy of 8,000 residents in 2022.
Council member Mike Myers asked why the projections fell short of those in the 1995 comprehensive plan, which projected 10,000 in Blaine by 2015. �They projected an annual growth rate of 3.5 percent which was very aggressive,� Galvin said.
While not included in the population forecasts for Blaine, county projections see Birch Bay�s population hitting close to 10,000 by 2022.
Certain areas of Blaine are expected to grow faster than others. Growth in Semiahmoo and planned development west of Semiahmoo Parkway is projected to boom, with close to a six percent average annual growth rate in that area over 20 years. The slowest growing area is expected to be central Blaine, growing less than two percent a year.
Galvin said that the high 2.3 percent rate was appropriate for Blaine, which has recovered from a negative growth rate between 1985 and 1990 to an average of over four percent a year in the last 10 years. Other possible growth rates modeled in the projection included 1.7 and 1.4 percent. �That�s very low for a city we feel is ready to do some growing,� Galvin said. �The number we�ve picked is overall lower than what we�ve seen in the last 10 years.�
Galvin said they also projected how much more commercial and industrial space would be needed to match the anticipated population growth. �We�re projecting we�ll need a total of half a million square feet over 20 years,� Galvin said, for retail and general commercial space, including existing space. The need for industrial space was projected at 60,000 additional square feet needed every five years. �It seems like a shot in the dark but both ECONorthwest and our consultant looked at a lot of history,� Galvin said.
The projections would be used to plan for future infrastructure, zoning and services in the city, Galvin said. �There are a number of other variables you need to look at, but this gives you a heads up. These projections are just projections. It�s not a law, it�s a tool.�
In other business, council members gave the go-ahead for a four way stop at the intersection of H and Third streets. While the intersection does not meet the state department of transportation criteria for accidents, it does for volume using the intersecting streets. Staff reported there were two crashes at the intersection in 2000, one in 2001 and two in 2002. The state criteria is five crashes in a 12-month period. However, H Street specifically was busy enough to meet state standards for a four-way stop.
While the intersection did not meet all the criteria, public works director Steve Banham argued it met enough to warrant the four-way stop. �It is hard to argue we should wait for more accidents to install this additional signage,� he wrote in the staff memorandum.
Council also decided to bring two issues back at their March 10 meeting. They scheduled a public hearing on changes to the cable television franchise contract that would allow the city to impose a utility tax. Council will also reconsider a loan program to help property owners keep runoff and stormwater out of the city sewers.