Cityplanning on graduated approach to boardwalk

Published on Thu, Apr 7, 2005 by eg Olson

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City planning on graduated approach to boardwalk

By Meg Olson

While the boardwalk project remains bogged down in legal proceedings Blaine city council will consider starting on the plazas that anchor each end.

At an occasionally noisy meeting with downtown stakeholders March 30, Blaine community development director Terry Galvin said they heard strong support for doing something rather than nothing.
“What we got back with very few exceptions was overwhelming support to move forward with the plazas now and the boardwalk later as it becomes possible, and real support for a pedestrian overpass connecting to the Marine Drive area,” Galvin said.

City staff called the meeting to determine what level of support the boardwalk had, given that the pending litigation could delay the project by six to eight months. “We’re ready to pull the trigger and what’s preventing us is the lawsuit,” he said. “If there wasn’t strong support maybe we were getting ahead of the downtown community.”
Staff proposed several alternatives, from shelving the project to getting the pedestrian overpass, plazas anchoring the boardwalk’s first phase at G and H streets, or both, rolling now. Galvin said approximately 30 people were at the meeting and almost all wanted to see the city do as much as it could do, as soon as it could. “We got real affirmation,” he said.

Opposition to the boardwalk was one loud voice, according to those who attended the meeting – Isac Feldstein, who is appealing a Superior Court decision that found the city met the criteria of public need and necessity needed to secure an easement across Feldstein’s vacant property. Feldstein maintains the boardwalk, planned for the harbor side of Peace Portal Drive, would bring excessive noise and decrease the value of his property.

Rick Osburn holds the opposite view, and said others agree with him. “I didn’t have to say a word at that meeting,” he said. “With one exception everyone said that boardwalk was critical to Blaine’s future.”

Osburn and his partners have plans to develop the property that once was home to the Blaine Book Company, and he maintains the boardwalk project is critical to the success of their investment. “No boardwalk, no building,” he said. “We’re relying on the pedestrian element and that draw.” Osburn said site limitations combined with the city requirement for commercial and retail space on the ground floor made Peace Portal’s harbor side a potentially risky development gambit. ”You take away the boardwalk and it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said. “The people aren’t there yet to bring in the dollars but if we didn’t believe it would happen we wouldn’t be investing.”

Mary Amsberry, owner of a neighboring property and Blaine Bouquet and Candy Bouquets proprietor, said she was disappointed the boardwalk, for which she has agreed to an easement, was still on hold. “I’m a very strong supporter,” she said. “We want to see them at least do something.”

Joel Douglas, who has two Peace Portal projects on the drawing board, said that starting with just the plazas at the end of G and H streets might be the best way to proceed. “That’s all that’s needed now,” he said. “The boardwalk is awkward because we haven’t developed out yet. Ten or 15 years down the road, maybe then. The vision is great but it doesn’t need to be done all at once.” He suggested the city instead channel resources into improvements to Marine and Peace Portal drives.

Osburn agreed that several older buildings between G and H might need to be replaced and the boardwalk could limit construction access. “As development proceeds so can the boardwalk,” he said. The flip side, he cautioned, was that the project was getting more expensive. “The city is losing money by delaying,” he said.

City manager Gary Tomsic said they would ask city council at their April 11 meeting for the go-ahead to start on the plazas. Galvin added the city has also received a $20,000 grant to study the feasibility of the pedestrian overpass to the marina area.