Councilworking through Seagrass appeals

Published on Thu, Sep 22, 2005 by ack Kintner

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Council working through Seagrass appeals

By Jack Kintner

The Blaine City Council voted to deny one appeal but upheld a second during a work session Monday night on the Trillium corporation’s permit application for their 72-unit Seagrass Condominium project.

Trillium appealed two of the 30 conditions placed on the application last fall by Blaine’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) official Terry Galvin, who is also Blaine community development director. In reviewing the application last October Galvin gave the project a mitigated determination of non-significance (MDNS), which meant that the project could be approved without an environmental impact statement if 30 separate conditions were met.

The MDNS conditions were in addition to 29 conditions of approval recommended by the staff of Blaine’s department of community development.

Trillium, along with another appellant, the Pointe at Semiahmoo Homeowner’s Association, had appealed condition 24 in which construction was limited to the months of May through August to minimize impact on shorebird populations. Trillium sought to relax the requirement and add two months to the construction period, while the Pointe at Semiahmoo Homeowners Association sought to strengthen it by requiring an Environmental Impact Statement on the impact the project would have on the birds.

“The applicant based his bird review on a study done completely on a literature review,” said the homeowners association’s Lincoln Rutter, “and never made a site visit.”

Rutter’s group hired Western Washington University biology professor John Bower to refute Trillium’s study, done by Biota Labs in Seattle. Bower strongly objected to Biota’s methods and conclusions, saying that the project would have a major impact on Drayton Harbor shorebirds in statements made during open public hearings held last spring before the Blaine Planning Commission.
After hearing from Rutter and Trillium attorney Sandy Mackie, the council voted to uphold the SEPA ruling, denying both appeals, 6-1.

Trillium also appealed SEPA condition 30, which required the applicant “to identify the application and integration of low-impact development techniques and measures appropriate to the subject proposal and property. The applicant shall demonstrate that the low-impact techniques and measures applied include the reduction of impervious surfaces to the maximum extent practicable.” Mackie maintained that the condition was vague, and the council agreed, voting to uphold the appeal and eliminate condition 30 by a 7-0 vote.
Last Monday Trillium sought unsuccessfully to introduce extensive modifications to their plan but was turned down by the council. Such modifications, if allowed, would have required the city council to remand the proposal, sending it back to city planning staff and the planning commission for more review. The denial of remand meant that the council would then proceed with its consideration of the original plan as submitted last year, beginning with the SEPA appeals it decided on at Monday’s meeting.

Time ran out at this point so the council postponed review of the plan itself, which will also include approving it as a planned unit development (PUD) and considering a needed shorelines master development permit, at a time to be announced

In the following executive session, the council considered litigation concerning a petition presented to the county auditor that sought to close the Blaine airport.