Hertz specifies needed changes
The east Blaine annexation agreement was back before city council almost a decade after its controversial adoption, and so were the same people who had concerns about turning1,100 acres of forest into a city.
“A lot of the people I see in this room were here 10 years ago and I bet you’d have a lot say this is not what people wanted outside of the developer,” said Lonnie Moore, who lives outside the city limits across the street from land Keeting and Sons had proposed turning into a large subdivision at the time of annexation. Today, county developer Ken Hertz is buying the 450 acres and plans a 650-unit subdivision.
Blaine city council held a public meeting January asking if city council should consider changes to the east Blaine annexation agreement that Hertz said are necessary before he even applies to develop the land. The developer agreement that rode along with the annexation ordinance sets out certain conditions Hertz says are onerous and outdated, from requiring the developer to “assist the city” in acquiring road right-of-way held by third parties to connecting sewer lines to adjacent properties. “We feel a lot of these requirements were really unreasonable and difficult to accomplish,” Hertz said. “We realize there are no free lunches. We expect to pay our fair share.”
Members of the audience expressed concern that whatever changes to the agreement were considered, they held developers accountable for the impact of adding 650 new homes to a sparsely developed area. “A project of this magnitude will heavily impact H Street,” said east Blaine resident Terry Clarke. “It will be very unsatisfactory if that project goes forward without H Street improvements.”
Property owners along the “view” streets off of Jerome wanted to know why city acquisition and maintenance of their streets as well as the right-of-way acquisition developers had agreed to “assist” with in the original contract wasn’t moving forward. “That’s potentially unenforceable for the city to have agreed to,” city attorney Jon Sitkin said. “This is a component of the problems this agreement faces in the real world, though they might have been well intentioned at the time.” He explained in the older plats such as the one in question property owners own the roads, not the city, meaning third parties would determine if the developer could complete his end of the deal.
Other east Blaine residents wanted any development to bring better services to their area, such as utility corridors and transportation improvements. “These are the kinds of things we’ll be looking at,” Tomsic said.
Moore asked if it was wise to site a large residential development on top of an area that drains into the wells Blaine and Birch Bay get their water from. “Whether it’s cluster housing or not that’s a lot of people fertilizing and watering lawns on top of the watershed,” he said. Brett Armstrong asked if it would be more responsible to lower density and sell five-acre parcels
Hertz said if the city approved the changes to the developers’ agreement that would make the project move forward many of the issues audience members were concerned about would be addressed in the planning and permitting stages of the project. “When we get into the details of the plan there will be a lot more discussion and study,” he said. “We’re very concerned about protecting the environment and will do more studies than you’ll ever see on a five-acre parcel. All of those issues related to aquifers, storm drains, traffic will need to be addressed. Those kinds of impacts will occur.”
Kathleen Capson from the Blaine neighborhood association said if responsibly done adding another single-family neighborhood to Blaine would take pressure off the downtown area. “We could probably use another single family neighborhood,” she said. “We’re almost maxed out now.” Tomsic agreed, saying that state projections estimate the population of Blaine will double in the next 20 years.
Council members voted to direct staff to prepare amendments to the east Blaine annexation agreement and developers agreement to address Hertz’s concerns. Sitkin estimated it would take one or two months to prepare the documents and notify east Blaine residents, at which time a public hearing will be scheduled and council will begin their review of the changed agreements.