close
close

Whatcom County Council to Consider Fully Funding Birch Bay Incorporation Feasibility Study

By Grace McCarthy

The Whatcom County Council is expected to vote in June on providing crucial funding for Birch Bay’s incorporation efforts through a feasibility study that would provide a clearer picture of the costs associated with Birch Bay Bay becomes its own city.

“A feasibility study by an independent third-party consultant will be far more credible than anything we can do,” said Matt Berry, president of the Birch Bay Incorporation Association (BBIA). “I think this is the information the community needs to make a decision on how they want to be governed.”

County Executive Satpal Sidhu and Council Member Ben Elenbaas, who represents Birch Bay, will answer questions at the next BBIA meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 16. The meeting will be held at the North Bay Community Church, 4895 Birch Bay-Lynden Road in Birch. Bay, and on Zoom at bit.ly/3Qy9aUy.

BBIA is accepting questions from Sidhu and Elenbaas at bit.ly/4bov6cK. Questions can be submitted up until the start of the meeting, and attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions during the meeting, Berry said.

The Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan, which provides a framework for future planning, states that county officials should “actively support incorporation, where appropriate” in Birch Bay. Berry launched incorporation efforts last spring in an effort to bring better representation to the region. BBIA was officially formed last November, in part to show county government that it was serious about incorporation.

Sidhu has asked Whatcom County Planning and Development Services to submit a budget request to the County Council for up to $200,000 to fully fund an updated feasibility study, wrote Jed Holmes, County Clerk. word of the executive office, in an e-mail addressed to The Aurora Borealis. The study would build on an incorporation feasibility study completed in 2008 that provided information on the city’s projected operating costs and tax revenues at the time.

If the board approves the funding, the study could begin as early as early fall after the county selects an independent contractor, Holmes wrote. The feasibility study could be completed by this time next year, although Holmes cautioned that would be the best-case scenario.

“The County Executive Office wishes to support the process and provide the opportunity for an objective and balanced exploration of what incorporation could look like,” Holmes wrote.

BBIA continues to contact as many stakeholders as possible to get their input on incorporation, Berry said. The association has prepared a survey of the most important services for residents that will guide cost estimates in the feasibility study. BBIA published the survey at shorturl.at/wzBL0 on May 7 and it will close on July 7.

Once the feasibility study is completed, BBIA will determine whether it wishes to proceed with the multi-year public incorporation process. The path to incorporation involves many steps, including obtaining the signatures of at least 10 percent of voters in the proposed city to place incorporation on the ballot.

The proposed city boundaries reflect the Birch Bay Urban Growth Area. If incorporated, Birch Bay would become the fourth largest city in Whatcom County.

For more information about BBIA, visit incorporatebirchbay.com.