Trilliumtries again for rezone

Published on Thu, Mar 22, 2007 by ack Kintner

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Trillium tries again for rezone

By Jack Kintner

The Trillium Corporation’s Alden Reach is a light industrial, mixed use and residential development planned for 1,000 acres of some of the finest waterfront and view property in western Whatcom County.
The parcel, west of Jackson Road and south of Grandview Road, also sits entirely within the Cherry Point industrial urban growth area (UGA) and as such is zoned for heavy industrial use.

Trillium has been trying to develop the spectacular setting as residential property for some years, but has been unable to convince Whatcom County Council to make the necessary zoning changes that would allow them to proceed. The changes have been opposed by the BP Cherry Point refinery and by the local fire department for the area, Whatcom County fire district 7, among others.

Two years ago the Birch Bay community plan was being considered for approval by the county council which, if granted, would make it an official part of the county’s comprehensive plan. One of the conditions for approval was that the parcel now known as Alden Reach be removed from the Birch Bay UGA because including it would mandate a re-zone of the property and allow Trillium to proceed with their residential project.

Last summer the Birch Bay steering committee’s land use, economic development and infrastructure subcommittee voted to return Trillium’s parcel to the community plan, an action that would be advisory in nature because only the county council can modify the county comprehensive plan.

Last January Trillium submitted a comprehensive plan amendment application asking the council to reassign Alden Reach from the Cherry Point industrial UGA back to the Birch Bay UGA and change its zoning to urban residential and light industrial. The matter went before the council subcommittee on planning and development last Tuesday, March 13, with all council members in attendance along with representatives of Trillium, BP Cherry Point refinery and fire district 7. The subcommittee, council members Laurie Caskey-Schreiber, Seth Fleetwood and Dan McShane, voted 3-0 to recommend against approval to the entire council when it takes the matter up on Tuesday, March 27.

This time, according to Alden Reach project manager Mauri Ingram, Trillium wants to simply put the issue on the docket for further study. “Our job at this point is to create a forum, not set an agenda,” she said, “because it’s an extraordinary site that can benefit the community on a number of levels. All that might be lost if it’s turned into just another industrial park with everything off limits including the beach.”

“That’s just plain stupid to put houses that close to a refinery,” said district 7 fire chief Gary Russell. Russell said, “It’s just not good for public safety. Why put it on the docket just to keep talking about it?”
The plans for Alden Reach emphasize public access to the mile and a quarter waterfront and connecting trails throughout the property. The centerpiece would be a conference or retreat center that she called the Campus project.

“It would offer a place for groups to come together for study, contemplation and celebration that would be enhanced by the inspiring setting,” Ingram said.

She cited studies from the Port of Bellingham and Western Washington University which say it’s unlikely that another heavy industrial user will be found to use the site, or that one would be tolerated by the people in Birch Bay.

“It’s an extraordinary site, one that could benefit the entire community in a number of ways, especially if access to most of it can be maintained. That’s unlikely to happen with other kinds of development. We now have the opportunity to find new ways of developing waterfront property. All we’re asking for is a chance to bring people together and see what happens.”