Council appoints Olason to planning commission
By Tara Nelson
Three times might be a charm but sometimes it only takes two. Just ask Dennis Olason, of Blaine, the most recent appointee to the Blaine planning commission.
Olason, a long-time resident of Blaine, had first applied for the commission in 2008 and was passed over by Blaine City Council for Vancouver real estate developer Robert Caine, who has since resigned. But in their regular meeting Monday, council voted 5-2 to appoint Olason to one of three vacant positions.
Council members Scott Dodd and Jason Overstreet voted no but gave no comment at the time of voting.
The council also voted 7-0 to reappoint planning commissioner Ken Oplinger, a resident of Blaine and president of the Bellingham/ Whatcom County Chamber of Commerce.
A third position, left by former chair Jeff Arntzen, remains unfilled.
Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said the council has not yet decided whether Olason will fill a two-year vacancy left open by resigned commissioner Tim Ventura, originally appointed to replace Caine, who left for personal reasons last year, or the six-year position left vacant when Arntzen’s term expired. The council will decide that at their next regular meeting, Tomsic said.
When asked if Olason would consider himself “pro-growth” he declined to answer and simply described himself as an independent thinker who has lived in Blaine for many years.
“I’m interested in what’s going on and I just though I could be of help,” he said.
Olason moved to Blaine in 1948 at the age of 12 from Hensel, North Dakota, with his family. After graduating from Blaine high school in 1954, he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Western Washington University and a Master of Arts degree in botany and plant physiology from the University of Washington.
He worked for nearly 30 years in the Renton school district as a high school biology teacher, continuing to visit Blaine on a regular basis. In 1990, he and his wife decided to retire just outside of Blaine on Sweet Road where they built a house. Nearly 10 years later, the two moved into Blaine’s central district where they continue to reside.
Since then, Olason said he developed an interest in the public process, stemming from personal experiences in dealing with the city. From there, things just got rolling, he said.
When asked where he saw growth in Blaine heading, he said he wasn’t sure and stressed the importance of being as flexible as possible to accommodate unforeseen circumstances.
“I don’t think there’s an answer to that question, because if anyone knew they’d be making a bundle,” he said. “It’s a situation that’s going to be in flux, it will be changing depending on what the conditions are. Although, I think until the economic things settle down, it will probably be fairly quiet. So I think that’s the only way we’re going to survive is being flexible.”
Council member Paul Greenough said he voted for Olason’s appointment because of his regular attendance at council and planning commission meetings over the past few years in addition to his personal attributes.
“I think he’s an honest man who has courage of his conviction and I think he will have no reluctance to express them,” he said. “What he has that other people don’t is that he’s attended a lot of planning commission meetings – maybe more than most planning commission members have attended.”
Blaine mayor Bonnie Onyon agreed. “Dennis’ involvement in city government the past few years serves him well as a new member of the planning commission,” she said. “We appreciate Dennis’ willingness to serve and contribute to the Blaine community in this capacity.”