Countycouncil approves Birch Bay community plan

Published on Thu, Sep 30, 2004 by ack Kintner

Read More News

County council approves Birch Bay community plan

By Jack Kintner

After nearly four years of work and a great deal of talk and revision, the Birch Bay Steering Committee’s Community Plan was approved by the Whatcom County Council Tuesday night on a series of procedural votes.

The document sets out guidelines for Birch Bay’s development for the next 20 years in such areas as land use, housing, transportation, parks and recreation, economic development and governance. In 20 years the plan assumes that a population of almost 10,000 people will live within the Birch Bay Urban Growth Area (UGA), roughly twice the number living there now.

Whatcom County Planning and Development Services manager Sylvia Goodwin said that the current pace of growth is already ahead of plan predictions. Last July, when the council modified the plan by removing about 800 acres from the UGA at Point Whitehorn and Birch Point, she noted that the UGA still had space for the 3,500 additional homesites the plan says will be required, “but if the current rate of growth since the year 2000 keeps up we’ll need more like 5,560 new homesites.”

The steering committee meets next on October 13 to discuss neighborhood boundaries. On Saturday, October 23, a general Birch Bay meeting will be held at Christ the King’s satellite church in the Peace Arch Mall at I-5 exit 266 (Birch Bay-Lynden Road). The agenda includes breaking into neighborhood groups to elect representatives to a new steering committee that will oversee implementation of the plan. “Some of the old faces will continue,” said committee vice-chair Kathy Berg, “but it’s been four years and maybe there’s some fresh faces, too, who want to give it a try.”

Implementation issues will deal primarily with prioritizing and creating the structures the plan says will be needed, including everything from new roads to new schools, new parks and ways of protecting sensitive habitat. Designated commercial areas include sites at Blaine and Birch Bay-Lynden roads, Lincoln and Shintaffer roads and Blaine and Alderson roads, an area that currently is undeveloped.

An issue lurking behind much of this is that of incorporation, an issue last addressed and turned down by voters in 1992. “As a county we like to encourage that by making it easy to do should Birch Bay decide to do that,” said Goodwin, “because as these quasi-urban areas grow it becomes difficult for the county to provide services.” As an example of what the implementation phase involves, Goodwin said that when faced with providing services the steering committee might decide to push for incorporation or it may decide to pay for services with a combination of user fees and taxes.