Must…plan…faster!

Published on Wed, Sep 4, 2013 by By Ian Ferguson

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With local development on the rise, Blaine’s community development team is approaching its workload limit.
In 2011, Blaine had an official who processed permit applications and a separate official who inspected new buildings and enforced city code. Budget restraints merged those two positions into one, and Ed Yurgalevicz has played the roles of building inspector, code enforcer and permit processor ever since.
In 2012, the workload was manageable, but now that the pace of development has increased, permits are beginning to back up.
“Ed [Yurgalevicz] works 8–9 hours a day doing inspections and reviewing applications, and there are still permits waiting for review,” said planning director Michael Jones.
Currently, the wait for permit processing isn’t long, but the planning department is operating at capacity. If the pace of development increases at all the wait times may become a problem, Jones said.
“At that point we will have to put in a budget request for additional staffing,” he said. The other three staff members in city planning aren’t sitting on their laurels, as Blaine has numerous development projects brewing.
The site of the former Blaine Municipal Airport is being readied for development, and the city is working with a consultant to determine the feasibility of making a wetlands mitigation site on the property.
“It would expedite the development process for any proposed development in the watershed that needs wetlands mitigation,” Jones said.
There are eight development projects currently listed on the city website, but two of those have been withdrawn from review: the Semiahmoo Marina Phase II project, and the Burnside Village project.
Other projects were conceived before the economic downturn in 2008, and reviving them is proving to be almost a bigger challenge for planners than starting from scratch.
“Imagine taking apart the kitchen sink, putting all the pieces in a pile, leaving it for five years and then coming back to it. You might not remember how all the pieces went together,” Jones said during his mid-year report to city council August 19.