Whatcom County Library System

Short 0.7% of a 60% required supermajority, the Whatcom County Library System will ask the Whatcom County Council to place the Birch Bay Library Capital Facility Area (LCFA) on the Feb. 8, 2022, special election ballot.

This decision was made after reviewing the narrow margin of the November general election and with full support of the Friends of Birch Bay Library, the Whatcom County Library System announced on Nov. 23 in a news release.

In the Nov. 2, 2021, general election, the proposition to build the Birch Bay Vogt Community Library needed just 26 more “yes” votes to pass.

Passage of the ballot measure in February 2022 will allow the LCFA board of directors to issue bonds to finance the construction of the library at 7968 Birch Bay Drive.

The Whatcom County Council will review the new ballot measure at its Dec. 7 meeting. 

The measure – titled Proposition 14 on the November 2021 ballot – required a 40% turnout based on the previous general election and a supermajority to pass.

November voter turnout met the 40% validation requirement, but fell just short of the required 60% of yes votes to certify passage. According to Whatcom County’s Nov. 23 certified vote count, 59.3% of voters within the LCFA who cast ballots voted yes for Proposition 14.

“Community members tell us they believe the measure can pass, and they want to push forward,” WCLS Executive Director Christine Perkins says. “These volunteers did an incredible job spreading the word about the library project in advance of the November election. Now, they are eager to increase awareness of the necessity of voting. As a library system, we believe strongly in the need for a library to serve Birch Bay residents. We have state financial support, private donations and a dedicated crew of community volunteers. With the support of voters, we can build a modern library for Birch Bay that provides services the community wants and needs, but everyone must turn out to vote.”

Friends of Birch Bay Library have issued an all-call for volunteers on their website, friendsofbirchbaylibrary.org.

“If you believe in libraries and would like to see a library in Birch Bay, now is the time to step up and pitch in,” says Friends of Birch Bay Library President Dianne Marrs-Smith.

Community members who want to volunteer should email Marrs-Smith at fobblpresident@gmail.com

An LCFA is the method state law provides for funding a public library capital improvement project through property taxes.

If the measure passes, property owners within the LCFA boundary will pay taxes of approximately 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

For example, the owner of a Birch Bay property assessed at $350,000 would pay approximately $38 annually – the equivalent of $3.20 per month – in property taxes to fund the library.

If the ballot measure passes, the new library could open as early as 2023.

The Birch Bay Vogt Community Library project received a $2 million state appropriation that may expire if construction does not begin soon.

With a donation of $100,000, bp tops the list of private donors. As it does at its other 10 branches and bookmobile, Whatcom County Library System will provide staff, equipment, library materials and other services when the new library opens. 

Currently, WCLS serves Birch Bay with weekly bookmobile service and WiFi. After community surveys revealed broad public support for a library building in the community, WCLS purchased the property at 7968 Birch Bay Drive in 2017 and began working closely with library supporters tasked with raising the funds necessary to build the community library.

The new library would be named the Birch Bay Vogt Community Library to honor the Vogt family, who had lived on the property since 1871.

To ensure the design reflects the interests of the community, WCLS and Zervas Architects hosted public input sessions and met with key constituents.

Visit wcls.org/birch-bay to see a project overview as well as a fly-through animation of the proposed library. The webpage also includes links to a donation page and information on named gift opportunities.

Birch Bay is one of the fastest growing corners of the county. According to the 2020 Census, 10,115 people live in Birch Bay, a 20% increase from 2010. If Birch Bay was a city, it would be the fourth largest in Whatcom County.

The unincorporated community does not have an indoor public gathering place.  In addition to access to technology and the library’s collection of books, magazines, newspapers and DVDs, community members have expressed interest in library services such as job training and after-school, evening, weekend and summer programs – especially for children and seniors.