BELLINGHAM - The public and the city Planning Commission are asked to consider whether property near a proposed new Costco store should be rezoned to allow even more retail development near the Bakerview Road-Interstate 5 interchange.
At least one prominent neighbor, Fred Meyer, told the city in a letter that the rezone should require a study of how much traffic would be added by building a 142,000-square-foot retail center next to the Costco site.
The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday, Aug. 7, on a request to rezone 10 acres of industrial land south of Mahogany Avenue, near Pacific Highway, to allow retail. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 210 Lottie St.
The 10-acre site is on the north end of the proposed retail center, immediately west of the Costco site. Initial drawings of the center at 4084 Pacific Highway show six buildings. Two of the buildings require the rezone in order to be built.
The city on Tuesday, July 29, determined the rezone would not significantly harm the environment. Bellingham's Planning and Community Development Department will take public comment on this decision until Aug. 12.
The comments posted on the city website regarding the retail center were mostly negative, with residents and nearby businesses raising concerns about destruction of wetlands and increased traffic.
As far as impacts go, some commenters, including Valery Anderson of Blaine, lump the retail center in with the new Costco.
"First, the proposed Costco store will be disastrous for the area," Anderson wrote in a comment Bellingham planners received on June 24. "It is already very congested from the on-ramp to Bakerview and the road itself. With the possible addition of even more stores, it will make it impossible."
The parent company of Fred Meyer told the city the retail center would impact traffic in and out of its Bakerview store. Fred Meyer in a letter dated July 21 asked the city to require a new traffic study, a new road, and an additional turn lane from the northbound I-5 off-ramp onto Bakerview.
Fred Meyer also appealed, in May, the environmental review of the 160,000-square-foot Costco that would be built across Bakerview Road. The retailer wanted more review of Costco's traffic impacts.
A representative for the retail center said traffic impacts are being carefully considered.
"We're working very closely with our traffic engineers to have a lot of forethought in the project modifications, so we can alleviate all those concerns," said Brian Franklin of PMF Investments.
Before construction can begin, the retail center must receive approvals on five separate development applications to the city, in addition to meeting state and federal permit requirements. Franklin said it was too soon to announce an opening date or the names of any tenant stores.
"We've talked to numerous different types of tenants, everything from smaller restaurants - nothing's set in stone at this point," Franklin said.
READ THE REPORT
For background on the proposed rezone to allow more retail development near W. Bakerview Road, click here . Details are in the PDF documents at right.