Initial results from Birch Bay study released

Published on Thu, Dec 6, 2007 by ara Nelson

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Initial results from Birch Bay study released

By Tara Nelson

When Whatcom County adopted the Birch Bay subarea plan in 2004, it recommended that Birch Bay eventually be incorporated into a city to maintain adequate levels of service to residents there.

But as the population and construction in the once-rural community continues to grow by leaps and bounds, many residents are debating not if, but rather how and when it should happen.

In a special meeting of the Birch Bay Steering Committee last Monday, residents and property owners heard preliminary results of a study conducted by Berk and Associates, a planning firm hired by Whatcom County to examine the feasibility of such an incorporation.
Residents had several questions including how much such an incorporation would cost and if neighborhoods, such as Birch Bay Village, could opt out of such an agreement.

Brett Sheckler, an economist and financial analyst with Berk and Associates who helped coordinate the study, however, said that would be a question for the voters if and when it is put before them on the ballot.

“City boundaries are the one time the residents will have a say,” he said.

No official boundaries have been drawn but an earlier survey was sent to all addresses in the Birch Bay urban growth area which represents about 5,900 permanent residents.

Sheckler said while their goal is not to dictate policy, many small communities such as Birch Bay chose to incorporate to have more control over their tax dollars. Whatcom County residents, for example, pay approximately $1.57 per $1,000 of assessed home valuation to pay for road improvements across the county.

If Birch Bay incorporated, that would disappear and the new town could collect its own taxes (estimated at $1.40 per $1,000) to be used for road improvements within the Birch Bay UGA.
Sheckler, however, said the question of economic feasibility comes down to preferences.

“Any city is feasible depending on what level of service you expect,” he said. “Some cities make it a priority to keep taxes low and there are certainly cities in Washington state that have very low levels of service as a result. But it’s not something that’s going to be imposed on anyone.”

Other Birch Bay news

• Whatcom County will host a community meeting on December 11 to gather the community’s input on the potential transportation improvement projects being considered for the Birch Bay area as part of an update for the Birch Bay Community Plan. The updated plan will identify future transportation projects to address the safety needs and growth in the area over the next 20 years.  

The feedback collected at the meeting will help county staff address the transportation issues that are most important to the community. The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, December 11 at the Birch Bay Bible Community Church at 7039 Jackson Road in Birch Bay.

• A group of Western Washington University students will present their findings from an assessment of a proposed bulkhead removal program at Point Whitehorn.

The program is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, December 13 at the Birch Bay Bible Community Church at 7039 Jackson Road.
More information about Birch Bay Steering Committee as well as the feasibility study is available online at www.birchbayinfo.org.

Official results of the study will be available in mid-January.