Peace Portal business park site plan approved
By Tara Nelson
The city of Blaine is one step closer to having another business park, following a decision by Blaine City Council Monday.
In their regular meeting, council approved 6-1 two rights-of-way applications along with a general binding site plan submitted by Blaine developer Doug Connelly and Doug Campbell, of Associated Projects Consultants.
The plans would lay the groundwork for a commercial business park on 18.5 acres of commercially zoned land on Peace Portal Drive just south of Our Place Café. Planning documents said the area would likely be developed with a mix of retail, services, light manufacturing, professional services or potential corporate headquarters.
City officials, however, under pressure from the Washington State Department of Ecology, stopped short of issuing any land disturbance permits until Connelly can show the project complies with state regulations for wetland mitigation and storm water management.
Berry Wenger, an environmental planner at the department’s Bellingham field office, said the property has a history of unauthorized land disturbance and noncompliance with their proposed off-site wetland mitigation and enhancement.
“They still have a long ways to go before they meet our requirements,” he said during the meeting.
In particular, Wenger said that planning documents filed with the city by Connelly refer to stormwater detention ponds as “wetland enhancements,” two distinct issues, each requiring separate permits, and otherwise makes little or no mention of plans for wetland mitigation.
“Stormwater ponds are not wetlands,” Wenger said. “A duck might land in one but they’re not really a good habitat because it’s stormwater runoff that might contain oil, grease and brake fluid from parking lots. Not only that but the water levels rise and fall as a result of rain. Some species need those water levels to be consistent for their survival.”
Wenger said wetlands serve as an important function for water quality as they help remove such pollutants as they adhere to sediment or fecal coliform bacteria as they are broken down by microbes in the soil.
Wetlands also regulate water temperature before it continues on to major bodies of water where even the slightest disparity can harm the resident ecosystem.
“That’s something a stormwater pond won’t do,” he said.
Response from neighbors
Blaine resident Lucile Donaldson who lives just downhill of the property said she has incurred excessive water runoff on her property after Connelly filled several of the wetlands beginning in 1994.
“When it starts raining three or four days on end, it’s almost like a stream going right through our yard and through the garage,” she said. “We have everything up on pallets.”
Donaldson said she moved into the house in 1986 and that she and her husband have never experienced this much water on the property.
There is an upside, however: “The grass is always green.”