Growth,infrastructure, are top concerns for Blaine citizens

Published on Thu, Sep 28, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Growth, infrastructure, are top concerns for Blaine citizens

By Tara Nelson

Managing growth and maintaining infrastructure are top concerns of Blaine residents, according to a series of informal meetings that polled individuals about what they think should be addressed by the Blaine City Council.

In two meetings earlier this month, the city council listened to a long line of concerns from Blaine residents that included staffing at the Semiahmoo fire station, Drayton Harbor Road repairs, updates on the city’s wastewater treatment plant and comprehensive plan, as well as development on the end of the Semiahmoo Spit.

Fire protection
At a September 13 meeting in Semiahmoo, several residents there expressed an overriding concern about the level of service they are receiving from fire district 13. The audience was particularly concerned with the timely responses of emergency medical services with regards to distance and train delays. In 2006, the average response time to a call in that area was nearly 12 minutes, well above the urban standard of four to six minutes.

Fire chief Tom Fields told audience members during the meeting that the district is short of necessary financial resources to hire more staff, adding that recent growth in the area is contributing to that problem. In May, for example, fire district officials squabbled over impact fees with developers such as Fred Bovenkamp, whose Horizons Village and Horizons at Semiahmoo projects are expected to contribute 646 new homes to the area.

Bovenkamp had already offered to pay $5 million for a new road connecting Birch Point Road and Lincoln Way and informally agreed to pay a voluntary mitigation fee to help with increased costs his development would impose on district 13 but later retracted his statement based on the $2,500-per-living unit fee suggested by the district, according to a May article in The Northern Light.

Fields said the issue will be discussed in more detail at the district’s upcoming public meeting at 7 p.m., October 2 at the Legion Hall at 4580 Legion Drive in Blaine.

Drayton Harbor Road repairs
Others, such as Blaine resident Trevor Hoskins, wanted to know about updates to the delays in the proposed repair of Drayton Harbor Road, as well as an agreement between Trillium Corporation and Whatcom County that would designate the road for local traffic only.
Blaine public works director Steve Banham said the delay appears to be related to Whatcom County’s ability to get through the permitting process. He added that while he is aware of such an agreement, he is not sure what, exactly, it implies.

“The county has told us they believe there is an agreement,” Banham said. “The county road engineer had said the portion of road between Shintaffer and Harborview roads would be restricted to local access but we have yet to see a copy of that agreement.”

Banham said the reconstruction is necessary to provide a detour route during scheduled construction of the Lincoln connector road, required by the county by Bovenkamp for his Horizons development.

Once Lincoln Road is in place, Banham said the county will be inclined to designate it as a limited access road. “So they are moving forward with the road improvements, but the delays have been due to the permitting process,” Banham said.

The project is scheduled to begin during the summer of 2007.

Boardwalk progress
A number of residents also asked about the progress of the city’s boardwalk project as well as the city’s comprehensive plan.
Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said the first phase of the boardwalk, the construction of the H and G street plazas, is complete.
The second phase, which will include a walkway connecting the two plazas, and the third phase, which will include a pedestrian overpass that connects to a possible future park near the boat launch, will be completed in along with future commercial developments along Peace Portal Drive.

Design guidelines
Long-time resident and business owner Art Lawrenson, speaking at the September 20 meeting at the Blaine Community Center, asked city staff to reconsider the city’s sign ordinance and turn-of-the-century design guidelines.

Lawrenson, who has owned Motel International for more than 40 years, said the sign ordinance was “the dumbest thing Blaine ever did.”

“If you’re driving on the freeway and you’re looking for a place to eat, or a place to sleep, or for gas, you look for a sign,” he said.

Developer Rick Osburn, who also attended the meeting, agreed. Osburn said the city’s turn-of-the-century guidelines create too much of an economic constraint on developers not just because it costs extra money, but also because of the time it takes procedurally with the city.

“That alone adds another economic constraint because it adds time.” He added that because taste is often subjective, such guidelines are often difficult to adhere to. “It’s very difficult to second-guess taste,” he said.

Councilmember Bonnie Onyon agreed. “We’re in agreement with you and we have decided to abandon those guidelines,” she said. “However, we do need some sort of design guidelines. It can’t be onerous.”

Growth management
Blaine resident Lois Franco said she wanted to see more meetings to discuss development proposals during the planning stages, so as to include more community preferences. Franco said the citizens of Semiahmoo, in particular, are often left out of the planning stages until the last moment, making such integration difficult.

“Why is it we have to wait until Trillium gets their best shot in?” she said. “By the time we get to a public hearing, it’s almost too late.”

Tomsic said he agreed and would look into the issue further.
Information gathered from the meetings will be used by the city council and staff in the city’s annual budget retreat where the council will set priorities for 2007.