Almost 50% jump in four years reflects building boom

LYNDEN ­— The city’s assessed property value now tops $2 billion, City Council member Kyle Strengholt noted in Finance Committee reporting Monday.

That amounts to almost a 50 percent jump from approximately $1.4 billion valuation four years ago. It’s a reflection of housing and commercial construction that has boomed in recent years.

This is the value on which 2020 property tax collections will be based. And because the number is up, it means that — even while the city takes in 1 percent more revenue as allowed by state law — the rate of property tax assessment next year will be going down, said Mayor Scott Korthuis.

The decrease for now is estimated to be .12 cents per $1,000 of property value, although the definite figure won’t be set by the Whatcom County Assessor’s Office until January. 

Also at Monday’s meeting:

A corner lot at Main and 19th streets is okay to be rezoned for multi-family dwellings, the City Council decided on a 4-1 vote.

That will allow owner Rex Bouma to go ahead with two four-plexes there, on 30,000 square feet of the northwest quadrant, instead of three single-family homes as it would be under current zoning. 

The vacant corner looks to be part of the former City Bible Church parking lot, but is really a separate legal parcel Bouma bought. 

Council members in favor said this spot could be buffer between Main and standard neighborhood houses and help toward density and variety of housing the city needs. The positioning of apartments also deals creatively with a sewer easement cutting diagonally across the corner, it was noted.

The council decision runs counter to the recommendation of the city Planning Commission when it took up the issue in July. And City Council member Brent Lenssen was the one dissenter now who said he also believes that any rezoning of the Main-19th-Guide Meridian area “should be looked at in its entirety and not as a spot zone.”

The council did go for a Planning Commission recommendation in favor of wholesaling and warehouse uses at the proposed Front Street Station business park on West Front Street. 

The conditional-use permit application of Don Korthuis on seven acres also envisions retail, office, showroom and light manufacturing as allowed by code.

For this development, Korthuis also was granted a variance that lets him build sidewalks five feet wide instead of eight, with a three-foot planter strip to the street and street trees shifted to parking islands on the property. It all allows more parking stalls on the premises.

Those in the Bogaard Meadows plat who live alongside the Pepin Creek drainage corridor will be allowed to put up a fence or vegetation on city land to screen out this ditch in their backyards. 

The city will sign individual easement agreements with the home owners. 

The city will pay about $9,900 through the county to get aerial images  using the Pictometry International Corporation. “You can’t hide anything in your back yard anymore,” quipped council member Gary Bode.

From Public Works Committee, it was reported that demolition of the former water treatment plant site on Judson alley is now  completed, as is a new outfall system from the wastewater treatment plant into the Nooksack River.

From Parks, it was reported that new portable cameras have been ordered that will be used on city parks properties. It is to stop graffiti and other vandalism, said parks director Vern Meenderinck.

Well over 100 Lynden High School students helped put down sod at the new Mt. Baker Rotary Club playground area of Bender Fields. The last of three climbing rocks is yet to be installed. Final surfacing of basketball and pickleball courts will happen in the spring.

In opening comments, mayor Korthuis acknowledged all who ran for city office in the recent election, as well as the passing of the Lynden Regional Parks and Recreation District bond helping city efforts. He also noted the tragic death of interim Lynden police chief Michael Knapp from injuries in a Nov. 5 vehicle-pedestrian accident; the memorial service at Bellingham Christ the King Church is at 1 p.m. today.