2010: The Year in Review

Published on Wed, Jan 5, 2011 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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2010 was quiet a year for the country as well as Blaine and Birch Bay. The economy made slight but not unnoticeable gains, though unemployment was still on the minds of hundreds of thousands of Americans. The 2010 election year saw a surge in populist support for Republicans, even in Whatcom County.

In local news, Birch Bay moved closer to becoming a tourism hotspot and Blaine saw the opening of a shiny, new water reclamation facility. Here are a few more highlights:

January

• The Salishan Neighborhood Association requested a building code amendment with the city to allow accessory dwelling units  to be built on their property.

• The city of Blaine joined with Trillium Corporation in appealing the county’s removal of West Blaine from the city’s urban growth area (UGA). Whatcom County Council voted to reduce Blaine’s UGA in December 2009 as part of a county-wide effort to reduce sprawl.

• A group of 11 property owners along Peace Portal Drive refused Washington Department of Transportation offers of $500 to purchase rights of way for the roundabout project on Marine and Peace Portal drives.

• Blaine high school graduate Caleb Statham was named to the high school football all-state team. He is one of 31 athletes in Blaine high school history to be named to an all-state team of any kind, and the seventh to be named for football.

February

• Trillium’s proposed West Blaine development, Semiahmoo West, found opponents in local anti-sprawl activists. This development was put on hold when Whatcom County Council voted to remove the area from Blaine’s UGA.

• Crews started work on the Blaine Bank Building, owned by Fairhaven developer Ken Imus. Imus bought 11 parcels of land in downtown Blaine and expressed interest in developing Blaine in a similar way to the Fairhaven district in Bellingham.

• Blaine City Council rejected a framework that would have allowed North Whatcom Fire and Rescue to impose impact fees for increased fire and rescue services. City council members feared the impact fees would prevent developers from buying and developing land in Blaine.

• The Washington State Department of Transportation awarded a $2.8 million contract for the I-5/D Street and Peace Portal/Marine Drive roundabout projects to Interwest Construction of Burlington. The roundabout projects were fully funded by the federal government.

• Trillium claimed the state’s “vesting rights doctrine” gives it the ability to develop West Blaine, even though the zoning of the area had changed since the company originally filed its planned unit development application.

• Blaine City Council voted 4-3 to send a letter to Representative Kelli Linville in support of the $7.8 million I-5/D Street roundabout project. Several local business owners expressed worries to the council that their businesses would be negatively affected by the construction.

• BP and the Department of Transportation announced plans to build a roundabout at the intersection of Grandview and Blaine road near the Cherry Point Refinery in Birch Bay.

• Whatcom County Council approved a new playground for Birch Bay’s Bay Horizon Park.

• Blaine sent 11 Borderite wrestlers to the state tournament in Tacoma. The week before, Blaine got first place in the regional tournament for the second year in a row.

• Blaine resident Karen Thatcher competed on the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team in Vancouver. The U.S. women’s team went on to win silver in a 2-0 loss against Canada.

• Blaine athlete Caleb Statham signed his letter of intent to play with the University of Montana football team.

March

• At the request of the city of Blaine, the Washington State Department of Transportation agreed to include certain conditions in the Peace Portal/Marine Drive roundabout project, including angle parking on the west side of Peace Portal Drive and making sure the roundabout can accommodate low-clearance and oversized vehicles.

• The first phase of the $2.6 million D Street/I-5 interchange roundabout started on March 15. Nighttime closures of the intersection started on March 22.

Northwest Parks and Recreation District #2 announced plans for the 2,400-square foot BP Heron Center in Birch Bay State Park.

The city of Blaine approved contracts with two artists for art installations at the Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility. Each of the two pieces commissioned cost about $25,000.

• Environmental group RE Sources sought larger wetlands buffers than the city of Blaine’s critical areas ordinance (CAO) required in a 2009 change to the ordinance. The Washington State Growth Management Hearings Board rejected RE Sources’ appeal of the city’s CAO, saying it fell within the state’s guidelines.

• Blaine Subway owner Dale Schrader sued the Washington State Department of Transportation over the Peace Portal/Marine Drive roundabout project, alleging the project would have robbed the Subway restaurant on Marine Drive of parking.

April

• Sheriff’s deputies arrested 14 men, including some Blaine residents, in connection with participating in a cockfight on West Laurel Road on April 3. All 14 were charged with animal fighting, which is a felony in Washington punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

• Work crews closed a section of D Street for 50 days starting April 5 for work on the D Street/I-5 interchange roundabout project.

• Former Blaine city council member and state representative-elect Jason Overstreet announced his candidacy for the 42nd legislative district’s first representative position.

• A lawsuit filed by a local business owner halted the construction of the Peace Portal/Marine Drive roundabout for about two weeks until a Whatcom County superior court judge ruled against the injunction order against the Department of Transportation.

• The Port of Bellingham announced funding of  a tourism study for Birch Bay.

• Wrestling superstar Gene Kiniski died in Blaine at the age of 81 on April 14. Kiniski, born in Edmonton, was remembered as one of Canada’s greatest athletes.

May

• Whatcom County voters turned down a proposed tax increase that would have helped to fund the Whatcom Transportation Authority, forcing a number of service cuts.

• Whatcom County Council voted 6-1 to go ahead with a Lincoln Road widening project. The project will also add storm water sewers and turn lanes to Harborview road where it intersects with Lincoln.

• The Peace Portal/Marine Drive and D Street/I-5 interchange roundabouts opened six days ahead of schedule.

• Blaine boys and girls track and field teams were invited to the prestigious Steve Prefontaine track meet in Oregon. Both the boys and girls teams also made it to the state district 2A championships, where the girls achieved a second place finish.

• Blaine’s baseball team made it to the state championships, in addition to Blaine’s fast-pitch softball team.

June

• The state growth management hearings board ordered the city of Blaine to revise its critical areas ordinance. The changes included mitigation rules for cottages and alterations to the amount buffers could be reduced.

• Blaine school district hired Craig Baldwin as its new elementary school principal. He previously worked for the Edmonds school district as the vice principal of the Madrona K-8 school.

• Whatcom County officials renewed pressure on Bill Beckett to close Spooner Creek Park, a baseball facility county executive Pete Kremen said is there illegally. Beckett vowed to continue holding tournaments there, despite heavy fines from the county.

See next week’s issue for Year In Review, July through December.