A stormwater control system for 80 acres in northwest Bellingham, including for a 160,000-square-foot Costco proposed for West Bakerview Road, will get $2.5 million from the Whatcom County government after all.
The loan-grant combination was initially approved by the county council in October 2013 but was cast in doubt after council members expressed reservations about the award. Council was able to reconsider its offer because it had to vote a second time, to authorize the county executive to sign over the funds from the county Economic Development Incentive program.
Council gave final approval of the award in a 5 to 2 vote on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Council member Sam Crawford, who led the resistance against the funding initially, supported it in the end. Barbara Brenner and Pete Kremen were opposed.
About two thirds of the funding, $1.675 million, comes as a loan that would be paid back in part through the fee Costco would pay to use the stormwater system.
Crawford and other council members said after their October vote that traffic from Costco and other developments could make an already congested Bakerview interchange unbearable.
"I have always felt all along that was a good project for EDI money," Crawford said. "My concern was, were we enabling other problems, not necessarily stormwater related but traffic related, by doing this."
The county was focusing its traffic concerns on certain Slater Road intersections near Interstate 5 that are within the county's jurisdiction. By holding off on the stormwater project funding, the council got Bellingham into a conversation about solutions to Slater Road's traffic problems, Crawford said. Costco's traffic study showed the big-box store would add 40 vehicles per hour to the number entering Slater Road from Pacific Highway.
"I'm looking forward to the city of Bellingham's participation ... to work on Slater Road issues," Crawford said. "The mayor has acknowledged that and given her commitment to participate in that."
Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville alluded to this commitment in an email to The Bellingham Herald on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
"We appreciate the county's approval of our EDI proposal for our regional stormwater project," Linville wrote. "This is a significant step in meeting environmental requirements, and I am committed to participating as other opportunities arise for multi-jurisdictional cooperation."
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