Countycouncil okays Horizons at Semiahmoo

Published on Thu, Sep 21, 2006 by ack Kintner

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County council okays Horizons at Semiahmoo

By Jack Kintner

The Whatcom County Council voted unanimously last week to approve plans for the Horizons Village at Semiahmoo development proposed by Birch Point Village developers.

At the same time the council rejected an appeal from Whatcom County Fire District 13 of an earlier county hearing examiner’s ruling that the developers would not have to pay a special concurrency fee of $2,500 per living unit to the fire district to help assure adequate fire protection.

The council voted specifically to approve the binding site plan, the project’s status as a planned unit development and a site-specific re-zone for the project that will put over 200 homes and over 100,000 feet of commercial space on a site near the intersection of Shintaffer and Lincoln roads. They then adopted an enabling ordinance that put a short term planning and zoning overlay designation in the Birch Bay Urban Growth Area (UGA).

Following that approval, the council considered the appeal filed for fire district 13 by their attorney, Jon Sitkin. Hearing examiner Michael Bobbink had said in an earlier interview that “the state specifically excluded rural fire districts from being able to impose concurrency or mitigation fees on developers, presumably because they have so many other revenue producing options available to them.

“I can understand their dilemma but there’s no legal authority for them to assess this fee.”

Tom Fields, who as chief of North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services (NWFRS) is effectively chief of fire district 13 as well, responded that despite the question of authority, there is no concurrency for the development, by which he meant that the fire district is not able to guarantee adequate fire protection for the development given its current resources without some financial contribution, presumably from the developer.

The fee they proposed, $2,500 per living unit, would be less than one percent of the purchase price of each unit.

The council agreed with Bobbink, however, and unanimously rejected the appeal on a 7-0 vote, and the developers are now free to proceed with their project.