BirchBay group takes serious look at incorporation

Published on Thu, Jun 14, 2007 by ack Kintner

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Birch Bay group takes serious look at incorporation

By Jack Kintner

Birch Bay will take a serious look at incorporation in the next six months thanks to a grant from Whatcom County that the Birch Bay Steering Committee has used to hire incorporation consultants Berk and Associates of Seattle.

According to economist Brett Sheckler, the staff person that Berk and Associates has assigned to the Birch Bay study, the goal is not to advocate for or against incorporation but to provide what he called a “foundation of factual information that people can work from.” There can be a lot of disagreement and discussion that’s helpful if you can first agree on the basic facts, Sheckler said.

Though the dates for the meetings had not been set by press time, Sheckler said that he expects things to begin in a matter of weeks.
About half the potentially incorporated areas that Berk and Associates have worked with ended up rejecting incorporation, he said. Others, such as the city of Sammamish east of Seattle, rejected it once but then voted for it after a more focused examination of the question under the leadership of Sheckler’s group.

The study will be conducted by the incorporation subcommittee of the Birch Bay Steering Committee, the group responsible for developing the Birch Bay subarea plan that Whatcom County approved in September of 2004. Since then the steering committee, through several subcommittees, has been working on implementing various aspects of the plan, including the question of incorporation.

The incorporation subcommittee normally meets the first Monday of the month at 7 p.m. Sheckler said that while the meeting schedule the subcommittee will use to work with Berk and Associates has yet to be set, he expects there to be monthly meetings during the six-month time period specified in the grant. Some of this will be decided at the initial meeting where the group will “finalize some details and the handling of some logistics,” he said.

Subcommittee member Blair Murray said that the group cannot extend the time spent with the consultant without changing the grant, so there is a sense among subcommittee members of wanting to get through the process in a timely fashion. “But the goal is to hear from everyone, so there will be mechanisms in place to do that, such as open meetings where anyone may speak and perhaps a public comment period at other times.”

Sheckler agreed, saying that one reason the study was set to begin in the summer was to be able to include non-voting landowners in the discussions, “people like the Canadians or people from out of the county who are registered to vote somewhere else.” A survey in 2000 determined that about 33 percent of the property owners were Canadian.
Sheckler also suggested down-loading a copy of the municipal incorporation guide put out by the public non-profit Municipal Research and Services Center in Seattle and which is available on-line.
There is a link to the site and more information at the Birch Bay information website at www.birchbayinfo.org. The Municipal

Incorporation Guide is available at www.birchbayinfo.org/images/Municipal_Inc_Guide06.pdf.