Large retail center back on the table for Lynden site

The Lynden community once again will have a chance to consider whether a big retail store should be built near a residential area along Guide Meridian.

A public hearing about a proposal to change the zoning at 1986 Main St. from residential to commercial will take place at the Lynden Planning Commission meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13. Once the public hearing phase is completed and the commission makes a recommendation, the Lynden City Council will take up the proposal and have at least one public hearing before making a decision, said Lynden Planning Director Amy Harksell.

This is the property that Fred Meyer announced it wanted to develop in April 2012, and plans are similar to those introduced more than two years ago. Current plans include building a 170,000-square-foot retail store, a gas station with 14 pumps and two 6,000-square-foot retail buildings. The property is currently home to City Bible Church North Sound.

The current proposal was submitted by Powell Development Company, which has worked with Fred Meyer on some past developments, but makes no mention of Fred Meyer in the application. However, the applicant noted that a required preapplication meeting was held in April 2012, when Fred Meyer made its official announcement.

Messages for Fred Meyer spokeswoman Melinda Merrill were not immediately returned Monday, Oct. 13.

Mark Bugas, one of the neighbors to the property, believes that it is Fred Meyer that remains interested in the site. Just like two years ago, he and several other neighbors remain concerned about the impact such a large retail center would have in that area, adding that other undeveloped property already zoned for commercial development is available and would be a better fit for the community.

“We’re not anti-Fred Meyer in Lynden; this is a matter of location,” Bugas said.

In its application, Powell Development listed a variety of reasons why the retail center should go on that property. It would help slow “retail leakage,” as studies indicate many area residents do their shopping in other retail areas like Bellingham. It also would be sited on Guide Meridian, which can handle more traffic and would promote infill inside the urban growth boundary. The application also noted that the property, by being close to the Guide, means the most likely residential development would be high-density residential units.

“Lynden has a choice to make; either supporting a commercial project to enhance its retail base and retain sales tax dollars in Lynden’s coffers, or face a rezoning of residential property from low-density, single-family units, to higher-density apartments or condominium units,” it stated in the application.

After announcing it wanted to build a store in Lynden, Fred Meyer officials held a public meeting to discuss the project. Residents raised a variety of concerns, including increased traffic along Main Street, the occasional flooding that takes place on that property and truck delivery noise.

By the end of May 2012, the company decided against proceeding with plans. At the time, Merrill said that while they “cared very much” about the community feedback they had received, the decision not to go in that spot was more about the overall project costs being too high. It was not any one aspect that made the difference, she said, but a variety of cost factors that led to the decision.