Development concerns bring 100 to meeting

Published on Thu, Mar 20, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

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Development concerns bring 100 to meeting

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

It was standing room only at last week�s city council meeting, as more than 100 people packed city hall chambers to express concerns over a recent application to build 62 condominiums on Semiahmoo spit.

On January 22, the department of community development at the city of Blaine received an application from Gepetto LLC, the proponent, and Trillium Corporation, the agent, for a preliminary binding site plan. The application was determined to be complete on February 7, 2003. The permits are requested for a 62-unit residential condominium development project, called Seagrass Cottages at Semiahmoo. The proposal will involve the realignment of Semiahmoo Parkway and includes new roads, public access trails, and landscaping, according to the notice of application. The proposed development is immediately adjacent to Drayton Harbor and Semiahmoo Bay.

�I don�t need to comment on the beauty of the spit, its views or the natural habitat it provides for wildlife,� said Trevor Hoskins, a concerned resident. �We all appreciate the spit, it is a jewel for Blaine. It attracts tourists and residents alike.�

Hoskins asked the council to extend the date for public comment concerning the spit, at least until after the residents have heard from Trillium, who will be holding an information meeting on March 21 at Resort Semiahmoo at 7 p.m. The public closing time was originally set for this past Monday, March 17, at 4 p.m. However, city officials decided to extend the closing date.

�I would probably say at least a couple of months,� said Terry Galvin, Blaine�s community development director, when asked how long the public will have to comment.

Council members listened to the concerns at the meeting, but mayor Schugt told the audience that the council would not be responding at that time, just listening. �We�re here just to listen to you, whatever that is,� he said. �The council will be mute right now.�

Tomsic reminded the public that although they want to express their views to council members, the council has to be careful about what type of interaction it has with the public. �It�s difficult because you want to talk and they want to listen,� Tomsic said. �But they (council) really do have to be careful. They cannot be influenced outside.�

Some residents stated they want the deadline extended because they are just learning about the proposed development. �We have to extend this deadline. Some of us just learned about it,� Semiahmoo resident Ron Miller said.

Others were concerned about environmental impacts, adequate sewer capacity, traffic, a possible casino, and the power of money. �I hope you don�t make this decision just on tax revenue,� Kathy Cleveland said. �The only person who would benefit from this is the developer. I ask that this government not be by the developer for the developer and about the developer.�

City manager Gary Tomsic thanked everyone for coming to voice their concerns, but reminded them that this is a long process, and it�s only in the beginning stages.

�I think one thing to remember is the process. It�s important you understand that process and it�s very critical that you do that,� he said.

Galvin, who explained the actual process, started with some humor. �I feel like Trevor is the featured speaker, and I feel like the sacrificial speaker,� he said, the crowd laughing. �This is good though, that you�re all here. This is the kind of stuff we want to see happen.�

The process, he said, is really dependent on what the environmental reports state. Once all of the reports come through, the city will hold a public hearing and then work sessions will be held over several weeks going through public testimony and facts. Then the city will deny, approve or conditionally approve the plan.

�State law only allows us to have one public hearing process,� Galvin said. �So take your opportunity to get your comments in.� There is a maximum of 120 days to process the permit, but he said in this case the clock can be stopped for a while.

�This a very volatile subject and we want everyone to have a chance to participate. But it�s still very, very early in the process,� he said. �You guys (the audience) are way ahead of the ball here. We�re a little department. We�re pedaling as fast as we can.�

Galvin stated the city would update citizens with the process through public notices, newspapers, mailing lists and correspondence, and he invited the public to visit his office where they can review records. �There is a notebook in my department with all of the Trillium information,� he said. �You can look at it, and copy it if you want.�

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