City to appeal removal of west Blaine UGA

Published on Wed, Jan 27, 2010 by Tara Nelson

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The city of Blaine will join three other Whatcom County cities in appealing a decision by Whatcom County Council that substantially reduced urban growth areas (UGAs) throughout the county.

In a letter dated January 25, Blaine mayor Bonnie Onyon said Blaine will join the cities of Sumas, Ferndale and Nooksack in urging Whatcom County Council members to extend the compliance hearing with the state Growth Management Hearings Board by 90 to 120 days to allow the city to correct “factual and data errors” with regards to population figures and discuss potential resolutions.

“The logical growth for Blaine in the next few years, and as it has been for many years, is the Semiahmoo area,” she said. “It’s contigious to Semiahmoo, it was in our growth area previously, Trillium has had plans to develop that for years and their project is vested. If the project moves forward, and we hope it will, it should not do so in the county but in an area with urban services. It just makes common sense.”

Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said in doing so, the city hopes the newly elected members of Whatcom County Council will give the cuts a second look.

“Our hope is the new council might be a little more sympathetic to the issues some of the small cities have,” he said. “If they send the recommendation to the board without a reconsideration then we may join those cities in filing an appeal with the hearings board. Chances are, however, no matter what the county does, they’re going to get an appeal because there are a lot of developers, environmental groups and other private interests that are unhappy with this decision.”

The council approved the cuts in December following executive Pete Kremen’s proposal, which reduce Birch Bay’s UGA from 4,300 acres to 3,300 acres and reduced Blaine’s UGA from about 6,900 acres to 4,050 acres. For Blaine, that included the entire west portion of Blaine’s UGA that contains the long-vested 1,246-unit Semiahmoo West development, Semiahmoo’s sister development.

Onyon said because that project has been vested with the city for several years, the west portion of the UGA should not have been removed because the land is already serviced by urban governmental services. Further, she called its removal “inappropriate” and out-of-compliance with the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) because it divides two co-planned developments between two regulatory jurisdictions and defeats years of municipal infrastructure and community planning for the western areas of Blaine.

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.”
The city will not challenge the area between the two incorporated parts of Blaine around the south side of Drayton Harbor south to Lincoln Road, which was also removed. That area is now zoned rural.