To be sure, this past scene of school swim team use will not happen immediately, but the Lynden pool will reopen soon to water aerobics and perhaps gradually more. (File photo)

Swim club in short-term lease; aerobics classes will be first, lap swim could follow   

LYNDEN ­— Come Oct. 1, the Whatcom Family YMCA will no longer be leasing and operating the city’s recreation facility at 100 Drayton St.

And on Monday, Oct. 5, a new short-term lease of just the pool there starts up with the Bellingham Bay Swim Club. The City Council approved both actions Monday.

The “Let’s Pool Together” effort will give the Bellingham-based swim club access to the pool in exchange for providing public access, according to council paperwork.

This limited use will start with water aerobics on weekdays only and then “if there is sufficient demand, pool hours could be expanded and include other uses, such as lap and recreational swimming.”

The Bellingham Bay Swim Club will provide the staff to run programs, insurance and water testing. It will also be responsible for ensuring that all activities comply with Phase 2 COVID restrictions.

City Administrator Mike Martin largely crafted this deal for the city-owned facility, which the YMCA said this summer it cannot continue to operate, facing a COVID-driven financial deficit.

Martin said he hopes to see “other recreation activities open up more and more in the next month,” although it must happen carefully.

In terms of the pool,  the Arne Hanna Acquatics Center in Bellingham is already testing what it can do, with limited numbers, within the parameters of Phase 2 of Washington’s Safe Start effort, he said. 

Phase 3 would be another step up toward fuller pool use.

Martin emphasized this is a short-term lease — “either party can terminate in 10 working days” — and it could become something else more permanent by the first quarter of 2021.

He also said there have been proposals for operation of the gym side of the center, and these are being looked at. The process is “moving forward,” said Mayor Scott Korthuis.

Whatcom Family YMCA has operated the Lynden Recreation Center since 1997. It shut down on March 17 as COVID hit full force, and never reopened. The lease was otherwise due to expire Dec. 31.

The council gave the green light to two aspects of a residential rezone of 21.8 acres on the northeast corner of Main Street and Guide Meridian Road (see separate page A1 story).

The switch from the  standard single-family dwelling RS-100 zone to RMD Residential Mixed Density means an overall potential increase of units from 95 to 134. 

A preliminary version of a Lionsgate Master Planned Residential Community from the applicant shows just such a maximum buildout. But the council will get another look at that plan for final approval.

The council had to decide the rezone on the Planning Commission’s record, without any additional public comment.

While praising the quality of the presention of material by AVT Consulting of Bellingham — for property owner Mannahouse Bible Church of Portland ­— councilors also had some input for design, such as whether streets could be one-way with room for parking on both sides or how 3,500-square-foot lots could be configured for best access.

Noting the smaller lots, council Gary Bode said the reality always is that people have more vehicles than is estimated and need more room for parking. “The parking is not adequate on some of these designs,” Bode said.

Councilor Nick Laninga sensed enough of a traffic congestion problem — along with the historic fact of a high water table in this north-Lynden area — to vote against the preliminary MPRD. 

  •    Bode, who has pushed for more medical facilities in Lynden, was allowed to read the day’s announcement that PeaceHealth has bought property at Benson and Badger roads it intends to build on next year (see story on page A1).
  •    The council talked for a while about a proposed 8-foot-high art wall for the northwest corner of City Park.

Councilor Mark Wohlrab has been a backer. He will get a visual on its positioning, but the consensus was to hold off on erecting the wall until the city is more definite about what will be allowed on it.

Wohlrab, who is familiar with these in other cities including Ferndale, said certainly no profane, violent, threatening or crude art will be allowed, but this intent will be put down in written guidelines.

  •    Kyle Strengholt of Finance Commitee reported that Lynden sales tax revenue continued strong in August, representing May sales, and that is “fantastic” news amid COVID impacts.

The month’s $273,000 intake is $16,000 higher than a year ago and may be the second highest month ever. Still, the city is being cautious and estimating that sales tax revenue will be 5% under budget for the entire year, he said.

  •    The agenda called for discussion of any guidelines for chalk art on city sidewalks, but the topic did not come up.
  •    Extra police patrols, including in plain clothes, have resulted in several arrests at the new Rotary Sports Park recently.