Portseeks comments on pier, wharf rezone

Published on Thu, Jan 25, 2007 by ara Nelson

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Port seeks comments on pier, wharf rezone

By Tara Nelson

Port of Bellingham and Blaine city officials will hold a joint public meeting at 7 p.m. February 7 at Blaine’s boating center to present an outline of the Blaine Wharf District Master Plan to the public.
The meeting will include discussion of the possible closure of the Blaine pier to vehicles and the possible rezoning that would allow more flexible uses along Marine Drive.

The current zoning of much of Marine Drive is marine commercial and restricts other commercial and residential uses in certain areas, port planning and development director Sylvia Goodwin said.

“We’re considering if there should be offices, residential or non-marine uses on Marine Drive,” she said. “We are also considering residential in the field by the boat launch and near the marina. However, we’re not considering residential uses by Westman Marine and the fish processors at the west end of the spit.”

Goodwin added that with the closing of Blaine Marine Services at Semiahmoo the port is also looking at what additional facilities will be needed at the Blaine harbor to support boaters.

Meanwhile, several Blaine residents such as Richard Sturgill have already expressed their concerns about keeping the pier open to vehicles. In a letter dated January 2 to the Port of Bellingham, Sturgill said he sees a need for vehicle access on the pier, citing a lack of public access to shorelines within the city – especially to vehicle traffic. He added that Blaine has had “a long and viable custom of cruising the dock,” and that vehicles provide transport for elderly residents and shelter from harsh elements on stormy days.

Goodwin said that while the plan is still in the development phase, the pier is in need of serious upgrades. She added that because the pier was built out of a former railroad trestle and filled in with gravel, the entire structural support system of the pier would need to be replaced.
“The issue has to do with the cost of the pier and the road,” she said. “Once you get beyond the former Harbor Café, that entire road is built on pilings and is pretty narrow. And because it’s built on fill, the waves hit it and washes out the gravel.”

Goodwin said if the port decides to maintain vehicle access to the pier, it is not clear how much the safety upgrades would cost until a preliminary design is completed.

“Until then, you really don’t have a clear idea of how much it is going to cost,” she said. “We’re looking at how we will spend limited public funds over the next 10 years. If it turns out there are people who would rather have vehicles on the pier than other amenities, then that’s something we might have to look at.”

She added that because the dock – which, at one point, was used by fishers to sell fish and crab – is no longer needed for commerce, it may be more difficult to secure funds from additional resources.

“It used to be an issue of commerce that trucks needed to go out onto the dock,” she said. “But since that is no longer the case, the issue is how much public money do we need to spend to maintain a road and a pier used for recreational purposes.”

The final draft of the plan will be incorporated into the port and city’s comprehensive plans for Blaine harbor. For more information, contact the Port of Bellingham at 360/676-2500 or the city of Blaine at 332-8311.