Kremen proposal would cut west Blaine UGA

Published on Wed, Aug 26, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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When Dar Kruse bought several acres of land in the west Blaine urban growth area (UGA) more than 20 years ago, he had envisioned eventually platting and selling his  land to recoup their investment and create future financial security for his family

Now, with a proposal on file to cut the entire west Blaine UGA, that dream will never become a reality.
Kruse, a lifetime resident of Blaine, said he and his family have owned property in a small neighborhood off Semiahmoo Parkway for several generations and has long hoped to eventually be connected to the city’s sewer system so they could subdivide their land. He said because the area is not farmland and has been residential for more than 60 years, he didn’t understand what removing it from the UGA would accomplish.

“Without the sewer system worked out, you’re basically part of no-man’s land,” he said. “Some of us will be stuck with property we can’t plat but will have to pay taxes on. I’m all for the environment and preserving farmland, but this has gone too far.”

The proposal, an “executive’s preferred alternative” put forth by Whatcom County executive Pete Kremen, would eliminate the entire 824 acres of west Blaine UGA as well as the south portion. The proposal would preserve only 592 acres of land in the east Blaine UGA.

Proposed alternatives

A second proposal put forth by Blaine community development director Terry Galvin, however, would have left most of the west UGA in tact.

Galvin’s plan, if approved by Whatcom County, would remove the southern portion and reduce the east and west portions of the city’s UGA but preserve much of the areas that already have an urban level of density, such as west Blaine’s Normar Place neighborhood.

The proposal would remove 2,549 acres from the total 3,725 acres in the existing UGA, which county officials say is the most “significantly oversized” UGA in Whatcom County.

Although the Whatcom County Council could feasibly eliminate Blaine’s UGA altogether, Galvin said he recommended they allow Blaine to keep at least 400 acres in  east Blaine to allow adequate space for industrial and commercial development, and 600 acres in west Blaine because of the “considerable” real estate investment that has already been made there.

“In west Blaine there has already been 350 homes built within the UGA. Historically, that’s been an area Trillium has relied on, believed was in the UGA and invested in,” Galvin said. “And in east Blaine, we already lack adequate capacity for commercial and light industrial,” he said. “We’ve had in the past potential manufacturing companies come in over the years and then move on because there weren’t adequate pieces of land.”

Galvin, however, said he and city officials met with Kremen and Whatcom County Planning Commission Gary Davis and from that meeting, Galvin said it was clear the county would not recommend to keep west Blaine in the UGA.

“On behalf of city council we made the argument as it’s long standing status as a UGA and the significant money that Trillium has invested in the area, plus the existence of a fair amount of housing in the area, west Blaine should remain in the UGA,” he said. “But despite our best arguments, Kremen’s recommendation is not to include that.”
Chris Benner, vice president of Trillium’s real estate division, agreed.

Benner said that Trillium has owned property in Blaine and the west Blaine UGA for more than 30 years with the anticipation of developing the land in phases and that they are disappointed by the recommendation of the County Executive. 

“We have attended the growth management coordinating council meetings, the city council meetings and county council meetings and after attending the meetings Trillium does not believe that [Kremen] has recommended what either the city or the citizens want,” Benner said in a statement. “Given the diversity of Whatcom County it does not seem that a one size fits all approach is appropriate for a decision that will have such long lasting impacts.” 

Galvin said the city will more than likely send a follow-up letter to the county council in a last effort to convey the city’s sentiments with respect to west Blaine. Galvin, however, said that he doesn’t anticipate a favorable response.

“Every indication that we have is that the county will eliminate that from the UGA,” he said.

The Whatcom County Council will hear public concerns about the proposal in a special meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, September 1 at the Birch Bay Bible Community Church at 7039 Jackson Road.

The public will also have an opportunity to speak about the proposals during a joint meeting of the Whatcom County planning commission and council at 6 p.m. September 17 at the Whatcom County Council chambers at 311 Grand Avenue in Bellingham.

After that, it will go to the Whatcom County planning commission and back to the county council for a final decision December 1.

Kremen’s UGA proposal may also be viewed in full by visiting www.whatcomcounty.us.

Kremen’s office can be reached at 676-6717 or by emailing pkremen@co.whatcom.wa.us.