Blaine saw a booming year for housing development in 2022.
There was more than enough to keep city staff busy, from the announcement of the proposed Semiahmoo Highlands development that will bring up to 480 residential units to construction of The Ridge at Harbor Hills.
The city received $376,000 in revenue from building permit fees in 2022, which is $100,000 more than 2021 and $200,000 more than 2020. Construction was valued at nearly $45.6 million last year.
The city permitted nearly three times as many residential building permits as its annual average over the past decade, at over 150 permits in 2022, said Stacie Pratschner, director of the city’s Community Development Services Department (CDS). Development of The Ridge at Harbor Hills significantly brought up the number of permits, which the city uses to gauge the number of new housing units being built.
“It was quite a change from the averages we’ve seen for about a 10-year period,” Pratschner said. The closest the city’s seen to these numbers was right before the 2008 recession when there were about 70 residential unit permits issued, she said.
Last January, the city began using a hearing examiner, instead of planning commission, to review applications such as conditional use permits and preliminary plat applications before being considered by city council. The city also digitized its permit intake, which Pratschner said accommodated growth.
CDS is projecting conservative revenue from building permit fees in 2023, which Pratschner said is a theme throughout the city budget. Department staff are estimating numbers will be close to 2019.
From east to west, here are some of the major development projects, proposed and in construction.
Grandis Pond is a housing project east of Harvey Road that is expected to have 387 homes in its first subdivision and 1,000 homes within the next two decades. The project will have seven subdivisions made up of single-family, cottage homes, duplexes and fourplexes. Grandis Pond also has an area for a fire station and 48,000 square feet of commercial space.
Developer Ken Hertz, president of Bellingham-based Blossom Management, said he hopes construction could start in 2024 after infrastructure is installed. Hertz has been working with the city of Blaine and east Blaine developers Skip and Katie Jansen to obtain funding to install the infrastructure through tax-increment financing (TIF) and an Economic Development Investment Program grant and low-interest loan combination through Whatcom County. TIF would allow the city to borrow money from expected increases in property tax revenues from a designated area in east Blaine to pay for water, sewer and street construction.
The project has been stalled for several years due to the lack of infrastructure, which is also part of the reason Harbor Custom Development (HCD) has delayed closing the sale to purchase Grandis Pond, Hertz said. HCD, a Gig-Harbor based real estate company, entered a contract to purchase Grandis Pond for $14 million in December 2021. The contract expires at the end of 2023, Hertz said, adding that sale meetings remain positive.
“East Blaine development is going to be a big asset to the entire county because there’s very few pieces of property available with utilities, outside of the flood plain and outside of the agriculture area,” Hertz said. “This is a prime location in Whatcom County and northwest Washington.”
East Harbor Hills
Grandis Pond will connect to East Harbor Hills and then The Ridge at Harbor Hills through Harbor Hills Parkway. Blaine developers Skip and Katie Jansen, of JIJ Corporation, are developing both East Harbor Hills and The Ridge.
The developers are still working on engineering and entitlements for the 144-acre property, which is east of Harvey Road and north of H Street Road. The area is zoned for 600 homes but Skip Skip Jansen said he wasn’t sure they’d reach that density because of wetlands.
The Jansens would like to include a large manufactured home park in East Harbor Hills to create more affordable housing options. Before proposing the project to the city, they need the zoning to be changed, which has spurred backlash from east Blaine residents. The project is still far out and would ultimately need city council approval.
Skip Jansen said he anticipates East Harbor Hills could be constructed by 2030.
The Ridge at Harbor Hills
City council is expected to consider the final plat application for the second phase of The Ridge at Harbor Hills, formerly known as East Maple Ridge, in the next few months, according to the city. The second phase would bring another 78 residential lots to the 88-acre property, which has a total of total 350 units planned.
The Ridge broke ground early last year and has more than a dozen homes occupied, Skip Jansen said. Over 100 people are working on developing and constructing the property’s single-family and multi-family units.
Skip Jansen said the name changed to The Ridge to emphasize its high elevation after the November 2021 flooding. The property has a trail network, city park and 24,000-square-foot space for future commercial development.
Skip Jansen expects The Ridge to be complete at the end of 2025.
Construction is expected to start this spring on Lincoln Mews, a 53-unit townhouse project at H Street and Odell Road, said Blair Murray, developer and owner of Tin Rock Development. The 4.7-acre project will have duplexes, triplexes and detached dwelling units as well as vehicle access on Ludwick Avenue.
Blaine hearing examiner Rajeev Majumdar approved Lincoln Mews’s conditional use permit in August 2022. The project’s first phase will include a stormwater pond and infrastructure for the first 16 units. Murray said Lincoln Mews is expected to be complete by 2026.
Taco Bell opened in December 2022 and McDonald’s is expected to open by May, Jason White, vice president of marketing at White-Leasure Development Company, told The Northern Light earlier this month. White-Leasure has three lots remaining to be sold on the Gateway property at the old airport site.
Pratschner said the city would have a preapplication meeting with O’Reilly Auto Parts and a car wash could potentially go there as well. “They’ll likely be establishing themselves there pretty soon,” Pratschner said of O’Reilly.
Family Care Network (FCN) president and CEO Dr. Rodney Anderson was not available after several attempts for an interview. A FCN spokesperson said in an email that FCN will continue to work with its contractor and hopes to have an estimated timeline later this year. FCN purchased the 2.5-acre property from the city in June 2021 after several delays because of the pandemic. Dr. Anderson said last August that the clinic was expected to have a handful of primary care doctors but growing construction costs put the urgent care and X-ray in question.
Modern mixed-use building
Windermere Real Estate broker Jen Freeman, who is developing the modern mixed-use building on H and 3rd streets, said she could not give an estimate on when construction would be finished or who the first floor tenant would be. The first floor will have a 1,000-square-foot commercial unit and the top two floors will be a residential unit. The building was one of the first to be reviewed under the city of Blaine’s 2018 downtown design code.
Martin Street buildings
The city is reviewing a proposal for three buildings at the corner of Martin and 4th streets. The buildings will be two stories each, with one building having a 1,120 feet of commercial space and the other two having one-bedroom duplexes. Pratschner said she anticipated construction could start within the next month. Blaine resident Doug Dahl, who is developing the property, said he doesn’t have any tenants lined up yet.
Georgia Street triplexes
Two triplexes are being built at the corner of Georgia Street and Mitchell Avenue. The properties, which started construction two months ago, should be finished in another three months, said Blaine real estate agent Ron Freeman, who is representing the developers. The buildings have basements and two floors above ground.
Peace Portal condominiums
City council is slated to consider six condominiums directly south of the Georgia Street triplexes, at the corner of Peace Portal Drive and Mitchell Avenue. If approved by council, the condos will include parking and utility improvements north of the property. The hearing examiner approved the project’s conditional use permit on January 4.
Semiahmoo Highlands developer Wayne Swandt said he anticipates submitting the PUD and preliminary plat application to the city and Whatcom County in March. Swandt said focusing on stormwater management issues and housing market concerns delayed submitting the applications that he had intended to submit last May.
Semiahmoo Highlands is a 353-acre property on Semiahmoo Parkway, northwest of Horizon at Semiahmoo, that will have a few hundred homes with a neighborhood center. The project was originally about 480 units but Swandt said he modified the project for fewer units after the housing market and resident concerns. Construction on the 65 lots in the first phase could start at the end of the year at the earliest, Swandt said.
Over 100 people attended a Semiahmoo Highlands community meeting last March and voiced concern about stormwater management and infrastructure.
“There were a number of things we took into account based on the public meeting we had and changes in the market that made us take another look at our product mix,” Swandt said. “We pulled back to take a longer look at it and focus on stormwater issues, making sure what we’re doing is communicated to our neighbors and involving them in our analytical work.”
Horizon at Semiahmoo
About 10 homes are complete and another 16 are under construction in Horizon at Semiahmoo, said Jennifer Lang, director of marketing for HCD, the Gig Harbor-based real estate company developing the 149-acre subdivision. Two homes are already occupied and another two will have residents by April.
Horizon development spurred after years of staying idle when HCD purchased the housing development between Semiahmoo Parkway and Birch Bay Drive in July 2021. Multi-family housing allowed HCD to double the development’s previously expected residences to over 540 units, between 140 single-family homes and about 400 multi-family units in triplexes and fourplexes.
Horizon has opened its park with a bocce ball court and another park with horseshoe pits. The north gate on Semiahmoo Parkway is expected to be installed this spring and the gate off Birch Point Road will be installed later.
HCD doesn’t have an estimate on when construction could be complete, Lang said.
HCD is also developing Inverness, a 37-acre subdivision next to the Semiahmoo Golf Course that is slated to have 63 single-family lots. After holding a community meeting last June, HCD submitted its planned unit development and preliminary plat application to the city of Blaine. A public hearing is expected to occur in the next couple of months but hasn’t been scheduled, Pratschner said.
The gated subdivision is planned to have public utilities and a private stormwater pond. It will need traffic, wildlife and stormwater studies, among other requirements, according to the city.
Luxury Semiahmoo subdivision Muirfield has three of its 10 custom-designed homes under construction. Developer Denise Macris said the model home will be complete March 1 and she expects to have the remaining homes constructed at the end of 2023 or in 2024. The million-dollar homes, which are on nearly five acres on the westside of Semiahmoo Parkway, are still being sold.
Eleven of the 29 single-family homes in Woodberry have been constructed, developer Brady Mayson said. Woodberry is a 10-acre subdivision on Semiahmoo Parkway, just south of Fire Station 62. Mayson said he hopes to have the remaining 18 lots with homes constructed and sold in the next 1.5 years. Six homes have sold since construction started last spring.
“I’m pleased about what has happened lately because there was a point when the interest rates went up when we had no sales and very little activity,” Mayson said. “We had a few sales over the last month, so it seems as though people are adjusting to the newer environment with higher interest rates and are more comfortable with the economy.”
Twenty-three homes in Sea Smoke are either finished or under construction, said Swandt, who is also developing Sea Smoke at the corner of Semiahmoo Drive and Semiahmoo Parkway.
Construction on the neighborhood’s first phase should be complete by the end of 2023. The first phase will have 40 residential units, mostly single-family homes, 12 shared-wall homes and four duplexes, Swandt said. The city is reviewing an application for eight more single-family homes.
About 120 residences are permitted in the neighborhood but Swandt said it hasn’t been decided how many will be single-family homes, condominiums or townhomes. A commercial space is also zoned for the project, but he isn’t sure what could go in there, or if it would be residential, or a mix.
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