Seagrassopponents gain ally

Published on Thu, Feb 17, 2005 by ack Kintner

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Seagrass opponents gain ally

By Jack Kintner

Opponents of the Seagrass Cottages development on Semiahmoo spit are expected to turn out in large numbers at the Blaine planning commission’s public hearing next Thursday, so many in fact that the city has reserved the Blaine performing arts center for the crowd. They’ll probably be pleased to learn they’ve been joined in their opposition by the city planning staff.

In a report made public two days ago, Blaine city planning staff recommended that the city planning commission urge the city council to deny approval of the development.

Specifically, the 58-page report advises the commission to recommend that city council deny developer requests for preliminary plat approval, Planned Unit Development (PUD) approval and shoreline management substantial development permit approval for the project.
The report is available on-line at www.cityofblaine.com or at the planning office.

The approval process for the 72-unit 22-acre project had cleared one major hurdle last December when Blaine community development director Terry Galvin, functioning as the city’s state environmental protection act (SEPA) official, issued a mitigated determination of non-significance (MDNS) for construction, meaning that the project would be approved so long as 30 conditions were met.

The next step in the approval process is next week’s public hearing before the Blaine Planning Commission which takes place Thursday, February 24 at 7 p.m. at the performing arts center.

The staff also recommended postponing closing the public testimony portion of the hearing until the applicant has provided the commission with more information regarding conditions eight and 14 and staff has prepared a response as an addendum. Condition eight concerns details of the stormwater quality monitoring plan and condition 14 concerns details on the project’s contributing to local road improvements as required in the original approval for the resort in 1986.

The report goes on to say that if the planning commission does recommend approval, then the project should be required to meet 27 different criteria as conditions of that approval. This is in addition to the 30 conditions set forth last December in the SEPA report and would require the developer to, among other things, cluster the units and reduce their footprint, eliminate several parallel access corridors and find room in the resort’s central, shared parking for an additional 208 spaces.

Two appeals and a possible buyer for the property
The planning commission will also hear appeals from the developer and opponents wanting to contest aspects of Galvin’s MDNS finding. The Trillium Corporation is appealing certain time constraints to meet conditions specified in the SEPA report as well as requirements limiting the amount of impervious cover (roofs, driveways, etc.) on each lot.

The Pointe on Semiahmoo Homeowners Association is also appealing the MDNS on five issues concerning impacts to birds and bird habitat, adjacent bodies of water including salt water, aesthetics and views, available space for parking and the realignment of Semiahmoo Parkway.

Separately, the Semiahmoo Spit Preservation Committee will continue its public appeal for funds to find ways of buying the property from Trillium in order to preserve it as open space.

The committee already has initiated discussions about a possible purchase of the property with Trillium and, according to co-chairman Trevor Hoskins, has found them “receptive.” After receiving the blessing of the Blaine City Council to take part in its deliberations, Blaine parks board members Shelley Button, Janet Hrutfiord, Charlie Hawkins and Janet Hansen joined the group. However, as the project is currently under review the city cannot take an official position and the four sit as advisory members only.

Semiahmoo residents Hoskins and Ron Miller chair the group and led a recent petition campaign aimed at examining the development. Other committee members are Jim Jorgenson and Jane Thompson. 
Hoskins explained that the group has “plans to use the trust for public land to raise the necessary funds.”

“We hope this community effort to find an alternative to developing the property will wind up making everybody happy,” said committee co-chairman Miller, “because we want the property owner to get a fair price for the land and all the work that’s gone into planning the project, but we believe strongly that this beautiful site needs to remain in its natural state for the enjoyment of the public and the survival of all the birds and wildlife that live there now.”

Committee members chose to work with the Land Trust because it buys more land for preservation than any other entity in America, Miller continued. “It specializes in the complex task of finding purchase funds from public agencies and private sources, and it can and will handle all the applications and presentations for the committee.

“An initiative to buy the land outright will be most effective as a citizen-led effort,” Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said, “and the survey we conducted showed a good deal of public interest and support for this idea. We are certainly open to becoming a funding conduit for other state and local funds for which a general government must be the applicant. We appreciate the effort of these citizens in forming an organized strategy.”

Hoskins thanked the 400-plus citizens who signed the group’s petitions and added, “We hope to see all of them at the public hearing February 24.”