Committee to review code violations on the Point

By Meg Olson

The Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) has turned its focus to code enforcement in Point Roberts, while its alter ego, the Point Roberts Character Plan Advisory Committee (PRCPAC) works to revise codes that are specific to Point Roberts.

At the October 14 PRCAC meeting, chair Arthur Reber reported on a conference with county planning staff. “They acknowledge code enforcement is not efficient. It’s a FPdisaster,” he said. “They took photos of some of the most egregious violators and what they recommend is that we file specific complaints.”

Reber said budget constraints had cut down county code enforcement staff to one person, but new hires are expected to increase the county’s ability to enforce the rules.

The audience chimed in enthusiastically as PRCAC members ran through a list of suspected code violators they will be turning in to the county, adding some of their own to the list: junkyards in residential areas, illegal structures, and especially businesses, signs and construction without a permit. “Part of the problem is because there’s no enforcement people, just do whatever they want,” Reber said.

Several audience members brought up illegal signs, but Reber said proposed changes in the character plan would likely change sign rules, and that enforcement should be held off until those changes are made. “It’s a pragmatic gesture. Leave it for now,” he said.

Reforming as PRCPAC, the committee ticked through a list of revisions being proposed by the character plan review committee (CPRC), now an eight-member group, with the addition of Naomi Schucard and Monica Bailie. The group is reviewing and suggesting revisions to the Point Roberts Character Plan which was last revised in 1999. The character plan is part of Whatcom County codes governing commercial and institutional development on the Point.

Reber, a subcommittee member, said county staff has asked the group to gather community input and “address the quick and dirty things that would not be controversial but needed to be acted on as text amendments.”

Perhaps the most significant of the changes the committee is recommending is eliminating the phrase “at the end of the nineteenth century up to the First World War,” effectively removing the turn-of-the-century/heritage fishing village theme of the original plan.

Reporting on a September 16 town meeting, CPRC member Annelle Norman said the old theme didn’t reflect current community perceptions. Instead, participants saw a broader theme for the Point highlighting “natural assets and a “rural hometown atmosphere.”

Some of the proposed changes would ease restrictions on acceptable building materials, while others would tighten the rules. “There are a lot of ‘shoulds’ that should be ‘shalls,’” Norman said.

Moving to their role reviewing project proposals for conformance with the character plan, the PRCPAC turned again to a proposed sign for the Valero station and UPS Store at the corner of Gulf Road and Marine Drive.

Community member Steve Wolff said he had been working with owner Fred Pakzad, who is requesting placing a sign on the corner that would replace the current event sign with a three part sign advertising the UPS Store, Valero and community events. “This is our brainstorm and Fred loves it,” Wolff, one of the builders of the current event sign said.

Committee member Jennifer Urquardt said the sign had too many conflicts with county code, being both an off premise sign and representing multiple businesses. “Those aren’t our issues,” Reber said, but up to county staff to evaluate. “Height, lighting, those are our issues.”

Urquhart said she liked the current sign version overall but it would still have to come down a foot to meet the height restrictions in the character plan.  “We need more details,” she added, about lighting and finishes. “If it’s ok with the county, it’s ok with me.”

The committee also endorsed a second entrance on Pauls Road for the Cottages at Seabright Farms, which will allow the development to leave another wetland area undisturbed.

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