Candidates Form

         ~Introducing the Community of Birch Bay~

Birch Bay is a rapidly growing unincorporated urban growth area, designated by Whatcom County in 1997, with a population of 8,500 (according to the 2010 census).  Since completing our Birch Bay Community Comprehensive Plan (“A 2020 Look to the Future”) and partnering with our government, Whatcom County, we have implemented a serious number of goals and actions for the Birch Bay community…listing a few:

  • Re-establishing the Northwest Park and Recreation District now called Blaine Birch Bay Park and Recreation District #2
  • Establishment of BBWARM (Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District) addressing storm-water and water quality issues including regular maintenance and improvement projects. 
  • Re-construction of Lincoln Road Phase 1
  • Established year-round 25 mph speed limit on BB Drive and elsewhere – now an official golf cart community
  • BB Lynden/Portal Way signalization /improvement project
  • Neighborhood Deputy assigned to Birch Bay by Sheriff Elfo
  • Partnership with our Park District for a community recreation center and a children’s playground at Bay Horizon Park
  • The Friends of Birch Bay State Park and BP Cherry Point Refinery built the BP Heron Center for Environmental Education in Birch Bay State Park.
  • Lobbying Whatcom County to purchase a 4-acre parcel of property on Birch Bay Drive in the middle of the community for a County Beach Park (with Conservation Future funds) reserving approx.. 400 feet of saltwater shoreline for the public…and completion of a public park planning process.
  • A partnership between Friends of Birch Bay State Park and Blaine Birch Bay Park and Recreation District to build a children’s playground in Birch Bay State Park.
  • Lobbying Whatcom County Library Services to purchase property on Birch Bay Drive for the future Birch Bay Vogt Community Library…again reserving approx. 170 feet of public shoreline.
  • The people of Birch Bay prioritized their goals and wishes is 2004…
  • Number 1 was restoration of the shoreline and promenade
  • Number 2 was stormwater management and water quality improvement  now known as (BBWARM).

Both of these huge action goals have been accomplished!  The shoreline restoration called the Birch Bay Drive & Pedestrian Facility groundbreaking celebration was held on Sept. 6th, 2019 and the shoreline restoration work should commence this winter after 43 years of planning and permitting!

County Executive, Council and Port of Bellingham candidate question:

In 1997 The Washington State Legislature authorized rural counties, like Whatcom County, to retain a portion of the sales tax collected to finance public facilities.  As a result, Whatcom County developed the Economic Development Investment (EDI) Program.

Last spring, with the help of Luanne Van Werven and Sharon Shewmake, the WA State capital legislative budget appropriated $2 mil for the building of the Birch Bay Vogt Community Library.  Our community must raise the remaining $2.7 mil by June 31, 2021. 

Numerous studies, such as the one published by the Urban Libraries Council, have concluded that Public Libraries Contribute to Local Economic Development, in many ways. 


If elected, in your first year, would you support providing EDI funds to help build the Birch Bay Vogt Community Library?

Please answer “yes” or “no” and why….or maybe you aware of other County funds that might support our library building project?


Re:  Our Neighbor Cherry Point …

The Moratorium on the acceptance and processing of applications and permits for new or expanded facilities in the Cherry Point UGA continues to be a controversy.

The businesses in the Cherry Point Industrial Zone pay more than $200 million in taxes each year – which pays for everything from schools to public safety to general government services. The Birch Bay community is the beneficiary of BP tax dollars. BP pays about 25% of the Blaine School District levies, bond issues and capital facilities levies estimated at over $2mil taxes annually to the Blaine School District.

  • One fourth of the funds for the construction and remodel of Blaine High School came from BP. 
  • BP is also a major contributor of tax dollars to Blaine Birch Bay Park and Recreation District and Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resource Management District (BBWARM)
  • BP provided funds to build the BP Heron Center for Environmental Education in Birch Bay State Park. 
  • BP makes a generous contribution each year to the Friends of Birch Bay State Park to facilitate the robust Summer Environmental Education Program in the State Park and to operate the BP Heron Center. 
  • BP made a corporate donation of $100K to build the future Birch Bay Vogt Community Library.
  • The Cherry Point businesses support the Whatcom County community by making more than $1 million in charitable contributions each year. 
  • BP shares our shoreline, our concern for the environment and is a responsible neighbor and partner to the Birch Bay community.

Bad planning can affect new and current business growth and good planning can protect the environment and also continue to enhance economic growth, create family wage jobs and continue to bring tax revenue to Whatcom County.


How do you suggest we protect the future flexibility and viability of Cherry Point industry, protect family wage jobs and ensure sensible protection and safety of public health and the environment?

Can we find that common sense compromise?  The future of Cherry point may hang in the balance!

To the County Executive Candidates:


County Executive Jack Louws has set aside $1mil in capital funding from the Lodging Tax Fund for the construction of bathrooms in the Birch Bay Community Beach Park.  If elected, will you dedicate those funds for this purpose?


Port of Bellingham Candidates:


Tourism and Recreation is the business of Birch Bay.  Our economy flourishes for 3 months of the year!  Over a half a million people enjoy recreating and visiting Birch Bay in the summer months.  Unfortunately, it is not viable for some of our businesses to stay open all year.  We believe that the restoration of the shoreline and promenade will encourage economic development in the years ahead.

If Birch Bay incorporated today, we would be the 4th largest city in Whatcom County.  The Birch Bay UGA grew 86.4% from 1990 to 2000 and 70% from 2000 to 2010.  Because of this growth, Birch Bay acquired 8 new voting precincts!  Our valuation is over $1.5 billion and is mostly based on residential property with very little commercial properties.


Do you see any ways that the Port of Bellingham can help us diversify and bring other economic development to Birch Bay?

Assessor Candidate Questions:

Do you know that…Birch Bay has been named the most tax-friendly city in the State for Retirees? …that is according to SmartAsset, a financial technology company and reported in the Bellingham Business Journal.  Since Birch Bay is not a city we do not receive a portion of our tax dollars back to use at our discretion.  We continually have to ask the County for some of those funds to be spent back in our community.  We have done a pretty good job at that through the years!   

Question:  Our zip code is the same as Blaine, where does our retail tax and real estate excise tax go?  Does it ever find its way back to our community and if so…how does that happen?

Question:  What do you see as the most important duty of the assessor’s job… and what are the tax issues/challenges coming up in the immediate future that the residents of Whatcom County should be aware of?

Question:  Can you explain what is going on with School taxes at the State level?

Sheriff Candidate Questions:

From the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office website:  “The sheriff is the chief executive officer and conservator of the peace of the county.  As the chief and only elected law enforcement officer, the Office of Sheriff is unique in that the sheriff is accountable directly to the people.  Whatcom County is unique among Washington counties as its sheriff is a non-partisan elected office (one of three such positions in the State) 


The Whatcom County Sheriff must be a leader in providing professional and quality law enforcement, as well as corrections and emergency management services.”

Please elaborate on your qualifications to be the chief executive officer and conservator of the peace in Whatcom County.

Our present Whatcom County jail is inadequate due the deterioration of the infrastructure, and concerns for life safety issues. In 2012 the Jail Planning Task Force recommended the urgent need for the County to move forward to provide a safe, cost-effective facility.   After voters rejected a sale tax to fund a new jail twice, Whatcom County is faced with extensive maintenance and renewal work on the deteriorating old jail, which is projected to cost more than $32M.  Due to the existing jail configuration and footprint, this work will not provide any meaningful or permanent answers to space related issues such as medical, booking, classification and programs and upgrade to the electronic jail controls.  Major renovations will be undertaken as many systems reach the end of their lifecycles.   More than $12 million is earmarked for repairs over the next six years.


After spending all this money to renovate the old jail will we still need a new jail? 

Are we pouring a lot of good money into the old facility and not solving the problem?    

Will additional alternatives to incarceration, more mental health treatment, programs addressing homelessness and drug addiction, and more home detention for low-risk offenders solve the jail problem?


Construction for the new $10.4 mil Crisis Stabilization Facility in Bellingham has begun and should be completed in the summer or fall of 2020.  The 32-bed facility, evenly split between mental health and detox services, will replace a smaller 13-bed triage center and serve 5 counties.  Annual operating costs are expected to be $8mil and the Bellingham Herald reports that ongoing funding for this facility from the State may be in jeopardy. The Herald also reports that an average of 385 patients concerned about mental health and substance abuse go to the Peace Health ER every month.  Obviously treatment is better than incarceration when appropriate, but will the size of this facility, used by 5 counties, really make a difference in the overcrowded jail population?


Obviously treatment is better than incarceration when appropriate, but will the size of this facility, used by 5 counties, really make a difference in the overcrowded jail population…and…Are there other programs where Law Enforcement, mental health services, schools and families can work together to try and address homelessness and drug addiction in Whatcom County.


School Board Questions:

The first school in Birch Bay at Point Whitehorn opened its doors in 1909.  The second Birch Bay School was built in 1917 at Harborview and Birch Bay Lynden.  These schools consolidated with Blaine in 1941 and the Blaine Consolidated School District was formed.  Since then all students from Birch Bay have been bussed to the unified campus in Blaine. This year marks the 42nd year since the 1976 Birch Bay Community Comprehensive plan recorded this need and desire for an elementary school in our community and this long-standing need was reiterated in the 2004 Birch Bay Community Plan.

60% of the students in the Blaine School District come from Birch Bay.  In 2019, $3,920,800… in taxes will come from Birch Bay to fund the Blaine Schools maintenance,  operations and capital project bonds.  The city of Blaine will pay $2,570,000 in school taxes.  In 2019 the Birch Bay UGA will pay approximately $1,351,000 more than the city of Blaine.  Since 1992, Birch Bay has voted to fund capital bond issues and has paid approximately $89 million for renovations and new infrastructure on the Blaine campus. Only $1 million of that sum has been allocated for the purchase property in Birch Bay. 

The residents of Birch Bay have supported the Blaine School District while sacrificing our community vision for an elementary school and playfield, which would serve as the heart of our Birch Bay community.


The recent board decision to spend $4 mil and add 8 new classrooms to the Blaine Primary School on the Blaine campus simply postponed the need for a school in Birch Bay for many years.  The Blaine School District serves a community more populated and larger than the boundaries of the city of Blaine.  The Birch Bay community heavily funds the District.  Do you believe there is a need for a change of mindset on the Blaine School Board as they plan for the future?  If so, what might that look like?



State law provides criteria which states: School board director districts must be as compact as possible and geographically contiguous and they must coincide with natural boundaries and existing communities as much as possible.  The Blaine School Board districts look like a jigsaw puzzle and the Birch Bay community is chopped up in many pieces.

Population demographics have changed dramatically in the last 30 years.  Would you as a school board director be willing to study this issue and consider redrawing the school board districts to better reflect the State law criteria as we approach the 2020 census?

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