ExaminerOKs 149-acre Birch Bay project

Published on Thu, Oct 20, 2005 by ack Kintner

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Examiner OKs 149-acre Birch Bay project

By Jack Kintner

Bay Club Partners have agreed to build a $3.5 million public arterial road at their own expense linking Birch Point Road with Semiahmoo Parkway as a condition of approval of their proposed 149-acre Horizons at Semiahmoo project.

Fred Bovenkamp, Peter Horne and Jim Kaemingk, Jr., doing business as Bay Club Partners, agreed to build the road as long as it could be done in phases as Horizons at Semiahmoo and the adjacent 38-acre Birch Point Village developments take shape.

The land this road will cross is the site that was proposed in 1993 for a movie production facility to be called Beacon Studios. Five years later the Trillium Corporation filed an application for the property for a development they called Bay Club. Both applications expired.

Bay Club Partners submitted their original development application for the site to Whatcom County’s Planning and Development Services in 2003, but after Whatcom County Planning and Development’s Marilyn Bentley and Jeff Chalfant determined that the applicants needed a shoreline substantial development permit because of a planned drainage outfall into Birch Bay, they put it on hold, modified it and re-submitted it in January of this year.

The two developments will provide 80,000 square feet of retail space near the Shintaffer and Lincoln roads intersection along with about 600 to 650 living units. The larger parcel, Horizons at Semiahmoo, slopes gently downward from its northern edge along the Semiahmoo Parkway south to Birch Point Road, and is planned to have 64 acres of multi-family housing, 41 acres of single family housing and 44 acres of open space and roads. It will be developed in phases beginning on its northern, uphill edge, with eight condominiums of eight living units each at the top and an extensive area of single-family homes below that. Traffic from these homes will exit on Semiahmoo Parkway.

The current application for Horizons at Semiahmoo was submitted last July 22 and heard before Whatcom County Hearing Examiner Michael Bobbink last September 29, the meeting at which the developers agreed to build and pay for the road. County planners had considered prohibiting development until new roads could be built to prevent traffic that’s already congested from becoming worse with 600 or more new homes in the area.

In addition to the new road, developers also agreed to assess each living unit up to $2,500 in impact fees for Whatcom County Fire District 13 and $100 each in traffic mitigation fees for roads that are already built but that will have to be improved.

The Birch Bay Steering Committee originally came up with the idea of an arterial, or major road, from Birch Point Road northeast to Semiahmoo Parkway/Lincoln Road to alleviate congestion in the area. A part of that design included completing Lincoln Road through to connect with Blaine Road just south of the California Creek Bridge, a project that Whatcom County Public Works now has scheduled for completion sometime in 2008.

The additional $100 impact fee will be used to pay primarily for improvements required by increased traffic bound for I-5 that the new connector will send through Blaine Road’s intersection with Birch Bay-Lynden Road. This impact fee alone is expected to raise in excess of $400,000 by the time the project is entirely built out.

Bobbink issued his findings last Friday, October 14, in which he recommended that the Whatcom County Council approve the project as described and agreed to by developers as long as 32 separate conditions were satisfied, among them building the connector and allowing traffic to use the development’s residential streets as an interim connecting route until the connector itself is finished.

Other requirements include:

- The $2,500 per living unit in impact fees must be paid to Whatcom County Fire District 13 before a building permit for a given living unit will be issued. The fee could be lower but will be no more than that.

- A “will serve” letter must be obtained from the Blaine school district prior to future developers building out the multi-family lots. Bay Club Partners indicated that most of these multi-family lots will be sold to other developers, so this requirement will apply to them.

- The project requires one of three options for storm water run-off: an outfall in Birch Bay Village’s Rogers Slough, a high pressure outfall directly into Birch Bay or a way of retaining storm and surface runoff on the property. The first two require Shoreline Substantial Development permits, and Birch Bay Village currently opposes using Rogers Slough for Horizons at Semiahmoo surface runoff because they already have flooding problems. On the other hand, the applicant’s engineers, David Evans and Associates, believe that their drainage project through Rogers Slough could actually relieve Birch Bay Village’s flooding problems.

Bobbink commended Bay Club Partners in his report, saying that “the developer should be credited for a willingness to use low-impact development ideas even where these are not required by current Whatcom County development standards; for agreeing not only to dedicate the right-of-way, but to pay 100 percent of the cost of the proposed Horizons Parkway, an urban arterial, which will connect Birch Point Road with Lincoln Road, and to make a significant contribution to future improvements to the Birch Bay-Lynden Road intersection; and for a willingness to enter into an agreement, at significant cost to the developer, to provide impact fees to Whatcom County Fire District 13 which will help the district meet its future responsibility to provide an urban level of fire protection within the district.”

Bobbink’s recommendation will be introduced to the Whatcom County Council next Tuesday, October 25, and will be decided on November 9 on a special meeting date that council designated to accommodate its heavy November schedule.