Mayor says growth is needed, but some who spoke are concerned about potential impacts
NOOKSACK — While talk of future residential development at the top of the hill along Breckenridge Road has been ongoing for years, the Nooksack City Council on Monday night did not discuss specifics of any possible plans. At a hearing in packed council chambers, little obvious public support was voiced. But the council passed a 101-acre annexation request on a 3-1 vote within the first half hour of the meeting.
Longtime council member Tom Jones voted against it.
The May 30 application of Tom Fenton and Susan Williamson led to notice sent to properties impacted by the move, either within the area on either side of Breckenridge Road or adjacent to it. A local Facebook page of Nooksack neighbors heightened interest in the subject with speculation of high-density construction. Five or six community members and a representative of Miles Sand & Gravel Company spoke.
Comments were made by Lisa Tiemersma, Laurel Anderson, Dave Finet, Trisha Lankhaar, Dave Dodson and Tammy Pack.
Tiemersma said she had considered purchasing the former dairy farm property for preservation, such as trails, but did not do so after discussing with Mayor Jim Ackerman. She had heard an earlier development plan allowed for homes to be built along the fringe of the property, but with inclusion into the city that will no longer be an option, contracted city planner Roland Harper said. The two- and five-acre lots were a consideration when the property was in the county and not the city.
Finet said he saw value in family homes being located closer to the school, and the school being hooked into the city’s sewer system instead of a current septic system.
Pack, an adjacent property owner outside of the annexation area, voiced concern about having some type of buffer between future development and outside properties.
Lankhaar, a 15-year teacher at Nooksack Elementary School, said Nooksack Valley School District Superintendent Mark Johnson told them the district did not intend to build any additional classrooms following current expansion at the school. “It’s maxed out,” she said of taking any more students.
She added that Sumas Elementary School, also facing remodeling and construction, is also full.
Cox of Miles Sand & Gravel said his company recently purchased two homes adjacent to their access road and reminded the city of the traffic from the gravel trucks in this area that will continue.
Following Breckenridge Creek at the base of the hill, the 100-plus acres of annexed property on both the north and south sides of Breckenridge Road on the map include the rest of the creek, Nooksack Cemetery, Nooksack Elementery School, the former Breckenridge Dairy farm previously owned by Mike and Elena Gonser, and access to an existing gravel pit but not the actual pit.
Harper explained to the crowd that the hearing represents an early step in the process. Petitioners came to the city, owners were notified, and 95 percent of the owners signed the petition, Mayor Ackerman said. The property, which has been in the city’s Urban Growth Area since the 1990s, would go from rural to urban use.
This annexation proposal will now go to the Whatcom County Boundary Review Board and then back to the city, a process that should take around 45 days.
Eventually the property’s taxes would come to the city. Both Harper and Ackerman said the city will require future developers to put in sidewalks, gutters and curbs. Impact on the bridge over the creek will be addressed by state or other funds, Ackerman said, and not city funds.
Currently, zoning for single-family residences is for 9,600-square-foot lots in Nooksack. Due to the presence of Breckenridge Creek, shoreline restrictions will be in effect for 100-foot setbacks.
Ackerman said growth is necessary. “If we don’t grow, … it doesn’t pay the bills.”