This is one version of new county “wayfinding” signage that has been put forward.

Roadway will be kept out of park; ‘wayfinding’ also passed by council

LYNDEN ­— Conflict points dealt with, both a Pepin Creek Subarea Plan and a wayfinding sign program were agreed to by the City Council Monday.

It was breakthrough to some action, at least, on two issues that have proven thorny at times.

On Pepin Creek, the council took a stand and decided that the main roadway of the hoped-for future Lynden neighborhood should not cut through the 40-acre Benson Park that is also a centerpiece amenity.

What cleared the way for the council’s 6-0 approval of the overall plan — of housing types, development standards, corner commercial and, of course, the central new drainage channel — for 460 acres west of Benson Road.

This step allows the next one to happen, said Planning Director Heidi Guddi, that is, the environmental review by various agencies and tribes of the Pepin Creek realignment idea.

“We’re trying to move to the next step,” said City Manager Mike Martin at one point of the discussion.

Another goal is to end a building moratorium that has been in place now for about three years in the area.

During public hearing, seven people came to the microphone, most of them urging that the Pepin Parkway, crossing somewhere between Benson and Double Ditch roads, not intersect the park.

Citizen Jeff Roberts, who is on a parks advisory committee, also asked that Benson Road upgrading have high priority. 

“Benson is in bad shape. My kids walk that road ... because there is no sidewalk,” Roberts said.  Don’t let development get ahead of county road conversion to city standards, as happened on Line Road, he added.

Another speaker, Bob Weeks, asked that the parkway be situated north of the Lynden Airport so that air space there is not compromised and possibly the airport runway can be extended across Benson some day.

Chair Diane Veltkamp of the city Planning Commision, which has also heavily invested in Pepin Creek planning, emphasized that “concepts become reality.” 

Yet the city, in its memo for the meeting, said this is “a plan rather than a contract [and] can be altered, revised and improved as we learn more.”

Gudde explained after the meeting that the state Department of Commerce is already in its required review of this subarea plan for compliance with the Growth Management Act. “They check everything we do.”

Brent Lenssen led council discussion. He said Pepin Creek, as Lynden’s primary option for housing growth in the next 20 years, is “fraught with potential impediments,” and while each possible step is taken, Lynden should not “put all our eggs in this one basket.”

What is the public good of the estimated $35 million in infrastructure investment that will be needed to ready Pepin Creek for development, and who will pay for it? he asked.

Martin noted that one of the reasons for routing Pepin Parkway through Benson Park is to save on infrastructure costs.

Also, Gudde said in an email to the Tribune Tuesday that planners were working with the signal that just 20 acres of the 40 would be active park, so it is good to know now it is the full 40. 

In favor of passing the plan, councilman Gary Bode said, “A lot is going to change, but at least we have a framework.”

  • On wayfinding — more attractive and unified signing for tourists in Whatcom County — Bode was a strong voice against two weeks ago. Now he said he saw enough questions clarified, and price held in check, to vote for it.

The Lynden Lodging Advisory Committee, dealing with hotel-motel dollars, has authorized $22,000 to go for this, matched by Whatcom County, for $44,000 in all to get things started.

Costs related to sign installation will be covered by the county, Mayor Scott Korthuis confirmed. Lynden is able to select a reduced sign menu, and put up only what signs it wants to.

Originally, cost to the city seemed to be much higher.

Teri Treat, co-owner of the Inn at Lynden, voiced the Downtown Business Association’s unanimous support for joining this Countywide Regional Wayfaring and Gateway Program. She said this effort is about supporting small businesses and continuing to attract visitor to Lynden.

Nick Laninga was the lone vote against, saying he still foresees more digging into the money bag to pay for what is started. People look on their smartphones for directional guidance, he said.

  • The council added its confirmation of  Mayor Korthuis’s choice of Steve Taylor, now assistant police chief of Searcy, Arkansas, to be Lynden’s next chief of police, starting in mid-January.

“He looks to be a great leader for the city of Lynden,” Lenssen said.

Separately, with lieutenant Russ Martin as acting chief reporting to the council, the promotion of officer Randy Humphreys to sergeant was announced. 

Many internal personnel changes now happening in the Lynden Police Department had been recommended by the late interim chief Michael Knapp.

  • The city’s contract for legal services with the firm of Carmichael Clark PS was extended for two years. Robert Carmichael is the city’s attorney under that contract.
  • Also, the city will continue to use the Whatcom Conservation District in 2020 to do various stormwater research and water conservation services. It helps toward compliance with a federal stormwater permit. Collaboration will be with the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds as well.