City council appoints new planning commissioner

Published on Thu, Feb 19, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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City council appoints new planning commissioner

By Tara Nelson

In their regular meeting Monday, February 9, Blaine City Council unanimously voted to appoint Blaine resident Craig Johnson to a two-year vacancy on the city’s planning commission.

Johnson, a former land use developer and architect, said he moved to Blaine in 1997 from Issaquah, a town that he said he watched grow from being “very small” to a “disaster.”

“I’m kind of hoping through the experience I had living there I might bring some insight to the council and help influence decisions for the better,” he said.

Johnson said he was born in Bellingham, but moved to Issaquah at a young age where he grew up. He spent most of his working life in Bellevue and moved to Blaine after purchasing a second home here and visiting with his family’s boat.

“We really grew to love this area being here every other weekend, plus it brought me back to my roots,” he said.

When asked by council member Paul Greenough where he thought opinion enters into the decision-making as opposed to following the code, Johnson said it depends.

“Obviously we have to follow the code always for legal reasons,” he said. “But there is a lot of room for interpretation. It’s a matter of looking at those options allowed in the code and being able to maximize the outcome the best you can. We’re not dealing with 100s of people and it’s not all black and white.”

Council member Scott Dodd said he had questions on property rights and asked Johnson whether he thought compensation should be made to property owners for wetlands management and shoreline setbacks.

Johnson said he did not have a solid answer when it comes to shoreline management specifically but that he felt shoreline management was important to preserve the habitat and also for aesthetic value in the short-term, but also to prevent erosion and maintain property values in the long-term.

“I have a house in Semiahmoo on waterfront that is more than 200 feet back, but I see all these houses when I walk the beach having drain pipes come down and continually eroding the beach,” he said. “These things don’t cost a lot of money, it’s just good, prudent management of your property.”

In response to council members’ questions on how he saw Blaine developing over the next 20 years, Johnson said he favored low-rise buildings with multiple uses to “get life into the city” as well as a few more fine dining establishments and a village-type atmosphere.

“We don’t have to be like White Rock,” he said. “They have a great boardwalk but the streetscape is really pretty crappy. We want something fresh, that’s going to make people want to stop here and right now, I don’t think there’s a lot of things that want to make people stop.”