City condemns Martin property for utility easement

Published on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 by Ian Ferguson

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The city of Blaine and the Martin family have agreed on a price for a utility easement through the Martins’ property to extend utilities to the east end of the Blaine city limits.

At a city council meeting July 22, after a 10-minute executive session, council members voted unanimously to adopt ordinance 13-2834 to acquire a permanent utility easement corridor 30 feet wide and 2,650 feet long through the Martin property, along with a temporary construction easement following the same path but extending 10 feet wider on either side. The council also agreed to pay the Martin Family LLC $120,000 for the property including legal fees.

The easement corridor runs east to west across the Martin property north of H Street. It was deemed the most logical route to bring utilities to east Blaine, which is currently undeveloped. The alternative route required major construction along H Street, which would be considerably more expensive, and require multiple condemnations along the way. Condemnation, or eminent domain, is an action by which a government entity can seize private property for public use, compensating the property’s owner monetarily but without necessarily obtaining the owner’s consent.

Grandis Pond, LLC, a development abutting the Martin property to the east, would like to build residential housing but can’t until utilities to east Blaine are installed. Ken Hertz, the owner of the development, has agreed to reimburse the city for the cost of acquiring the utility easement.

Public works director Ravyn Whitewolf said the agreement represents a desirable outcome for the Martins and the city.

“I’m really glad that we were able to resolve the issue equitably for both sides,” she said.

The condemnation ordinance and settlement agreement came after a drawn-out process of negotiations. The easement route through the Martin property was first proposed in 2011, following adoption of the East Blaine Infrastructure Plan (EBIP) in 2009. The EBIP laid out a vision for how utilities would be extended to east Blaine. In October 2012, the city and the Martins signed a letter of intent that laid the framework of an agreement so further negotiations, including cost of the easement, could take place.

In other council business, local Eagle Scouts Eli Jolly and Cody Burnett were awarded the Blaine Builder’s Award for their projects at Lincoln Park. 

Jolly created two picnic areas, organizing volunteers and procuring funds for two picnic tables, and Burnett led a group to improve a section of trail and installed a bench that he crafted from a piece of reclaimed lumber from Marine Park.

Before the city council’s regular session, they met with city planner Michael Jones for a study session. They discussed a proposed amendment to the comprehensive plan that would allow for certain agricultural uses in the Residential Planned Recreation zoning district, which includes the Semiahmoo uplands. Near the end of the discussion, mayor Harry Robinson asked how compliance would be enforced.

“That’s a good question,” Jones answered. “We currently do not have a code compliance officer.”

Another study session and a public hearing on the matter were scheduled for August 5.