Cityvoices its opinion to staff

Published on Thu, Jun 3, 2004 by ack Kintner

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City voices its opinion to staff

By Jack Kintner

With most of the city department heads in tow and accompanied by most of the city council, city manager Gary Tomsic led two community meetings on Wednesday and Thursday of last week.
The first, at the Semiahmoo fire station, and the second, at the Blaine Senior Center, were attended by about 30 people in each location. The primary concerns dealt with development projects ranging from condos on Semiahmoo Spit to the Blaine boardwalk.

The free-ranging discussions touched on many of the same points, but at Semiahmoo more attention was paid to the impending condo development on Semiahmoo Spit. When asked if there wasn’t a way to stop the project altogether, Tomsic quipped, “Yes, for $35 million you can buy it.”

Tomsic then explained that it would be difficult for the city to stop this development since it has been approved in both the city’s comprehensive plan and master plan. “But we can ask for various things to be done about issues such as view corridors, traffic, the impact on Drayton Harbor and so on,” Tomsic said. This is in reference to Trillium’s having re-submitted an application this year that asks for 74 units, up from 62 last year. The application is currently on hold awaiting further clarification on various items.

Among other issues discussed at Semiahmoo, Tomsic said that the plan for the proposed $30 million sewer treatment plant is not complete but the site has been “pretty much resolved.” He indicated a site in the west end of Marine Park and that the Port of Bellingham’s plans include spending $14 million on the same area. “It can be an attractive site, drawing tourists and will be integrated with the lighthouse facility,” Tomsic said.

Tomsic also spoke of the Birch Bay community plan’s recommendation that a 20-acre parcel owned by Trillium at the southwest corner of Shintaffer and Lincoln roads be zoned general commercial, something he opposes as it hurts the city’s revitalization of downtown. “We want people in Birch Bay Village, for example, to drive through a rural area to shop in Blaine, not get stopped before they get here,” he said.

At the senior center the next evening, LeAnna McGuire began by asking why there is no direct ambulance service between Blaine and St. Joseph Hospital, citing the experience of a neighbor whose death may have been avoided by more timely service. “We can pay for a boardwalk and an airport,” she said, “why can’t we use some of that money to pay for a direct ambulance?”

Tomsic explained that funds used for the boardwalk and the airport cannot be diverted to other projects and costs since “the funding is dedicated.” The boardwalk, for example, will be paid for by grants made specifically for that purpose.

Tomsic said the boardwalk will be started this fall and is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2005. “The $1.8 million total cost will be paid for by an outright grant of $400,000, and the rest will come from a low interest loan to be paid off by hotel-motel taxes. That money is for tourism development,” Tomsic said, “which restricts what you can do with it.” He added that the plan for the boardwalk is 20 years old, “but we hope to be fortunate enough to see it actually get done.”