City council votes to make east Blaine developers pay their own way

Published on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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If developers in east Blaine want full-fledged utility service, they’re going to have to pay for it themselves.

That’s the message Blaine city officials are sending with a resolution passed unanimously at Monday’s Blaine City Council meeting. The policy will require developers seeking to build homes or other properties in east Blaine to help pay for extension of utility services to the area and any studies or surveys associated with the extension process.

“[The policy] sets forth the city’s intent to require development to pay its own way rather than requiring existing citizens to pay for studies and improvements needed for future growth and development,” city staff wrote in the resolution.

City staff used the costs associated with surveying two parcels of private property owned by the Robert D. Martin Family Company in east Blaine as an example of costs developers in the area would help bear.

Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said the cost of surveying the land and hiring an outside consultant has grown to about double the amount allotted for such studies.

“The general consensus is that you should get the money from the people who are going to benefit,” Tomsic said. “The public is not going to be responsible for improvements that don’t have a general benefit for the community.”

Blaine Public Works staff have proposed snaking water and sewer lines through the Martin property to feed eventual development in east Blaine. The two parcels in questions had been the subject of foreclosure via eminent domain discussions until Blaine City Council decided against this method.

The city has agreed to pay approximately $54,000 to Bellingham-based Wilson Engineering to survey and study the wetlands on the Martin property between Harvey Road and the proposed Grandis Pond development. The city will also most likely contract with former Blaine assistant public works director David Bren, now a private consultant, for $18,000 to compare running the utilities through the Martin property to running them underneath H Street.

With the new policy in place, the proponents of the proposed Grandis Pond development will have to pay a portion of the survey and study costs in addition to expenses associated with eventually extending utilities to the area. Tomsic said he is still working out a reimbursement agreement with the developers.

“There is no agreement with Grandis Pond at this time,” Tomsic said.

Tomsic told city council members the city will not invest any large amount of money without assurance from the Grandis Pond owners that development will happen.

Tomsic said the developers have expressed eagerness to get the project off the ground.

“They’ve invested a lot in this,” Tomsic said.

The 438-acre Grandis Pond development will include 885 single-family homes, 128 multi-family apartments, 48,000 square feet of commercial space and 240 acres of parks and natural habitat areas. Developers Ken Schorr and Steve Price, who have been working on the project for seven years, expect the first phase to be completed in 10 years.

If Blaine grows in population, state growth regulations require development to take hold in east Blaine before expanding to any other part of the city, Tomsic said. In addition, the East Blaine Infrastructure Plan, which lays out how development in the area should happen, names future developers as the funding source for extending utilities to east Blaine.