County wants to rezone land in east Birch Bay

Published on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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A portion of land in east Birch Bay will be rezoned for the third time in two years if zoning changes the Whatcom County planning department is proposing go through.

The land in question lies within approximately 770 acres on the east side of Blaine Road, between Birch Bay-Lynden and Alderson roads. Whatcom County Planning and Development Services (PDS) is proposing two changes that would rezone either 92 acres or 119 acres of land.

The Whatcom County Council voted to increase the zoning density of the entire 770-acre tract of land from one house per 10 acres (R10) to one house per five acres (R5) in December 2010. The land was originally in the Birch Bay urban growth area (UGA) and zoned for four houses per acre until the county removed the land from the UGA in 2009.

The county’s most recent proposed zoning change is in response to a March 2011 appeal to the Growth Management Hearings Board regarding the county’s decision to change the land from R10 to R5, senior county planner Matt Aamot said.

The hearings board upheld the change, except for the portions of the 770-acre tract that lie within the 100-year Birch Bay floodplain.

With this change in mind, county PDS staff developed two rezoning solutions for the area, Aamot explained. The first alternative would rezone 92 acres back to R10 while the second alternative would rezone 119 acres back to R10.

The 92 acres in the first alternative could theoretically hold 19 homes under R5, but could hold only nine homes if rezoned to R10, Aamot explained. The second alternative’s 119 acres could hold 23 homes under R5 zoning and 11 homes under R10.

Alternative one includes three parcels that are completely within the floodplain while the second alternative adds one more parcel, 20 percent of which is in the floodplain. The fourth parcel has an approved, though undeveloped, subdivision on it, and the proposed zoning change would only affect the subdivision after it expires in 2013, Aamot explained.

The Growth Management Hearings Board directed the county council to vote on the proposed zoning changes sometime in October, Aamot said. The changes must first go before the county planning commission, which will recommend adoption or rejection to the county council.

For more information or to provide comments on the proposed changes, contact Aamot at maamot@co.whatcom.wa.us or 360/676-6907. For maps of the proposed changes, visit county PDS’s website at www.whatcomcounty.us/pds/2031/birchbayrezone/index.jsp.