2016 Year in Review: A Look Back at the Year That Just Was

By Meg Olson

January

  • The Cross Border Coalition to Stop the Towers celebrated a hard-fought victory after BBC Broadcasting abandoned its plans to build an array of AM radio towers on the Point.
  • A flurry of outages prompted Whidbey Telecom to put infrastructure improvement on the fast-track.
  • The appearance of an unwanted electric water cooler at Baker Field prompted the local parks district to send out an appeal to stop illegal dumping of trash, a problem which has plagued the park.
  • The fire district’s new $79,000 radio communications system was up and running, eliminating communications dead spots on the Point.
  • Water sales were high for 2015, but new connections to the water system hit a 20-year low.

February

  • Whatcom County Council unanimously approved a resolution to offer their support for plans to build a lighthouse at Lighthouse Marine Park and establishing their desire for the project to move forward.
  • With the Canadian dollar hovering around 70 cents local businesses got creative to draw in customers from north of the border.
  • County parks removed the failed section of the boardwalk at Lighthouse Marine Park and began the design process for what will replace it.
  • The fire department torched a donated house on Marine Drive, providing live fire training for department members.
  • The local Dollars for Scholars met the requirements to return under the umbrella of the national Scholarship America organization and awarded 13 scholarships to local post-secondary students.
  • Linda Hughes took over the role of chair of the Point Roberts Parks and Recreation District.
  • A revitalized chamber of commerce board made plans to improve signage and their website.
  • The Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network determined that a Steller’s sea lion that washed ashore at Lily Point had died from a gunshot wound.
  • A $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot had lottery hopefuls lining up at local retailers.

March

  • Blackfish Resort submitted a building permit application to Whatcom County five days before the project’s conditional use permit was set to expire.
  • A buoy outfitted with a fin at Maple Beach set off a stream of reports of a stranded Orca.
  • The water district started crafting a policy that would allow people to abandon their water connection.
  • The parks district turned to the public for input on how to make up the shortfall in funding to turn the Julius fire station into a new library after project costs came in over the $540,000 the Friends of the Point Roberts Library had raised.
  • San Juan Airlines resumed service to Point Roberts after soggy conditions on the grass landing strip led them to suspend operations.
  • Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office deputy Ian Johnson started his two-year assignment as one of the Point’s resident deputies.
  • Continuing erosion led county parks to consider whether the Cedar Point Avenue entrance to Lily Point could be reopened.

April

  • More than 40 community members attended a special parks district meeting on options for the district to secure gap funding for the new library. Several spoke in favor of new construction or at least a new foundation rather than using the footprint of the existing fire station. When commissioners met later in the month parks board chair Linda Hughes said she opposed using taxpayer dollars to fund the new library.
  • All the parties involved, from county parks to the dock’s fabricator, agreed to share the cost of replacing the dock at Lighthouse Marine Park which failed the previous year after only a month in service.
  • Fire commissioner Jeff Wilmot resigned, citing declining health as his reason for leaving the board.
  • The Point Roberts Taxpayers’ Association board agreed the association would make getting the county to stabilize and reopen the Cedar Point entrance to Lily Point a priority.
  • The local health clinic scored high marks on their quarterly quality improvement report through service provider Unity Care NW.
  • Whatcom County parks staff told county council members it would cost $1.2 million to build the lighthouse at Lighthouse Marine Park as proposed by the local lighthouse society. Parks director Michael McFarlane said the project would need to be scaled back to match the funds raised by the society, approximately $500,000 pledged by Dorothy and Darrell Sutton.

May

  • Delta Fire and Emergency Services and North Whatcom Fire and Rescue were both called to help the local fire department put out a fire that destroyed a storage facility on Gulf Road.
  • With chair Linda Hughes opposed, parks district commissioners agreed to put a one-time levy on the ballot to make up the funding gap for a new library.
  • Fire district commissioners appointed Shannon Tomsen to replace Jeff Wilmot of the district’s board.
  • On Easter morning a water main break gushed 200,000 gallons of water down the hill and into Maple Beach neighborhoods.
  • Fire district commissioners postponed a discussion of allegations from Ken Calder that an unlicensed contractor was used in the aftermath of the Gulf Road fire, in which Calder lost significant property.
  • While most proposed revisions to the Point Roberts Character Plan will wait until 2017 for county review and adoption, county planning staff told the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) that rules for signs needed to be limited to size, height and lighting until legal staff determined how a supreme court decision on sign regulations would be interpreted.
  • Travis Austin took over as the new owner of Dennis Auto.
  • Members of the Point Roberts Garden Club dedicated a small garden on Tyee Drive in memory of former member Jody Hackleman.
  • Mark and Tami Pondelick purchased the local marine services business Westward Marine.
  • New ownership kicked off improvements at the marina by replacing docks and improving fire suppression.
  • The annual general meeting of the Point Roberts Registered Voters’ Association focused on the sluggish enforcement of county code on the Point. Audience members also tried and failed to get past “No” with the county executive when it came to the proposed lighthouse at Lighthouse Marine Park.

June

  • Parks district commissioners considered options to create an off-leash area for dogs at Baker Field.
  • Garry Roberts, a descendant of Lieutenant Henry Roberts after whom Point Roberts was named, visited Point Roberts with his wife Maria.
  • At the annual general meeting of the Point Roberts Taxpayers’ Association port commissioner Bobby Briscoe and director of planning and development Sylvia Goodwin said port funds were not available to make up the funding shortfall for the proposed lighthouse at Lighthouse Marine park, they might be able to help apply for grant funding.
  • The aftermath of the Gulf Road storage fire was back on the agenda at the fire district meeting, with commissioners stating the fire marshal, not district staff, made the decision of whom to hire to knock down the burned structure.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected the permit for a coal terminal at Cherry Point on the grounds that it would infringe on treaty-protected fishing rights.
  • The county health department began a review of the Point’s solid waste system with the intention of seeing what might be needed to ensure a sustainable system remains in place for the long-term.
  • In their role as the character plan review committee members of PRCAC gave their approval to the design for the pool house at The Cottages at Seabright Farm.

July

  • Lori and Jason McDougall applied for a conditional use permit for a one-time gravel extraction operation on their 50-acre property near Roosevelt Road and Tyee Drive, adjacent to the existing Province Road gravel pit.
  • At a special PRCAC meeting Jason McDougall tried to reassure the audience that he would work to minimize the impact of any gravel extraction and be responsive to community concerns.
  • Parks commissioners agreed to move forward asking voters to approve a one-time levy to make up the funding gap for the Julius Station renovation into a new library.
  • Local resident Maude Green made her film debut in a sequel to the classic dance movie Center Stage.
  • Saltwater Cafe and the Compass Rose offered fresh dining choices.
  • Summertime softball got underway at Baker Field.
  • Longtime park ranger Ben Vanbuskirk quit his job with county parks after almost 30 years on the job over an unsustainable work load.
  • Parks district commissioners officially designated Baker Field and surrounding forested lands as an off-leash area with time limits for off-leash use.

August

  • Efforts to repair and replace the dock at Lighthouse Marine Park suffered further setbacks, delaying the dock’s installation until a month before it was due to come out for the season.
  • County parks staff said the Cedar Point Trail would be assessed for stability in the fall.
  • The proposal to reactivate the gravel pit on Province Road was put on hold at the county, while waiting for the applicant to submit a revised site plan and environmental checklist.
  • With Linda Hughes opposed, parks commissioners agreed to ask voters to approve a one-time levy of $300,000 for the new library project.
  • George Gibson, new port director at the U.S. port of entry, addressing PRCAC, said he was committed to improving efficiency at the border.
  • The county sent PRCAC four alternatives, from full traffic circles to rumble strips, to calm traffic at two Point Roberts intersections.
  • Whatcom County Health Department developed a survey to ask what the community thought of the current solid waste system.
  • The biannual Point Roberts Garden Tour featured nine unique gardens.
  • Vicki Huntington, member of the B.C. legislative assembly, was the guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Point Roberts Taxpayers’ Association. Her presentation, “The Great Migration, Love it or Lose it” stressed the need to protect the soils and estuaries of the Fraser Delta.
  • The annual Arts and Music Festival was rescheduled until Labor Day for “logistical reasons” and moved from Lighthouse Marine Park to the marina.
  • A baby seal found near the boat ramp at Lighthouse Marine Park ended up going to a rehabilitation center after too much human interaction led the pup’s mother to abandon it.
  • The fire district was awarded a $160,000 grant to replace all the department’s self-contained breathing apparatus.

September

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers began detaining visitors to the Point and questioning them about possible past marijuana use, resulting in several individuals being excluded from the United States.
  • Congresswoman Suzan DelBene visited Point Roberts and responded to individual and business concerns about border policies that are hampering the local economy, suggesting perhaps CBP needed “a solution more targeted” to local realities.
  • Bennett Blaustein, a retired television professional, launched Point Roberts TV to provide live coverage of local events and other relevant content.
  • The Cottages at Seabright Farm got final plat approval, the go-ahead to begin selling homes.
  • The Point Roberts marina began its dock replacement program by removing the old concrete floats that make up T dock and replacing them with new aluminum ones.
  • Madrona Yoga celebrated its 10th year in business.
  • The taxpayers association officially endorsed the library levy on the November ballot.
  • The parks district took emergency action to replace the failing septic system at the Gulf Road community center.
  • Scott Stuart won the Point Roberts Marina Salmon Derby with a beefy 21-pound fish.
  • Debby Altow won the 2016 Ha Ha Cup joke-telling competition.
  • Crowds at the Point Roberts Arts and Music Festival enjoyed music, art and dance at the festival’s new location at the Point Roberts Marina.

October

  • Its first month of sales saw a healthy demand for properties at Seabright Farms, with two of 58 lots selling.
  • The county health department received a healthy 165 responses to a community survey about the Point’s solid waste system. Once results are compiled they will be presented to PRCAC.
  • With leftover funds after a slow spring application season the local chapter of Dollars for Scholars opened up a fall application season.
  • The fire district turned down a request from the local hospital district to replace the existing clinic sign with a sign that was consistent with other Unity Care NW branch signs.
  • The Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce launched a contest to create or discover a new flag for the community.
  • The Point Roberts Fire Department open house welcomed visitors to visit the equipment and representatives of the many organizations that work with the department to provide emergency services to Point Roberts.
  • Seabright Farms introduced several public trails at the development, from a loop through the woods and along the bluff to stairs to the beach.
  • Chef Melissa Bray took over in the Compass Rose kitchen.
  • South Beach House owner Max Briand celebrated his 80th birthday.
  • Kiniski’s Reef Tavern celebrated 28 years.
  • Mental health counselor Maureen Buckley restarted her successful “sidewalk talk” program, offering free listening next to or in the Gulf Road community center.
  • The fire department’s town hall meeting was eclipsed by the first presidential debate.
  • Point Fuel and Pantry erected its new sign, which includes a community notice board.

November

  • Fire district commissioners discussed taking their maximum allowable increase in tax dollars collected and discontinuing the practice of “baking” taxing capacity.
  • Point Roberts voters went to the polls, where a yes vote by 60 percent of voters was needed to pass a one-time $300,000 levy to make up the funding shortfall for the new library construction fund.
  • On election day Point Roberts voters had their own drop box for ballots, a feature in other county locations the Point had not been offered in prior years.
  • After over two decades Neilson’s Point Roberts Electric’s Tyee Drive store closed, though Gordy Neilson’s work as an electrical contractor will continue.
  • Despite dire predictions the storms that came over the October 15 weekend did little damage.
  • Former Lighthouse Marine Park Ranger Ben VanBuskirk took the county to court over working conditions he says drove him out of his job.
  • Point Roberts Primary School added a new kindergarten teacher, Jesse Hettinga, and secretary Tammy McDonald’s position became permanent.
  • State representatives Luanne Van Werven and Vincent Buys made a visit to the Point, meeting with community members at the Saltwater Café.
  • The local fire district sponsored a Veterans and Remembrance Day celebration that brought together community members to honor veterans from both sides of the border and even overseas.

December

  • The library levy failed by a few dozen votes while the EMS levy squeaked by. Despite his success on the national stage, Donald Trump was not a popular choice for Point Roberts voters, garnering only 29 percent of the vote.
  • Point Roberts Marina met with county planning staff in a pre-application meeting to present their new master plan for the marina’s undeveloped properties, which will include a residential component as well as services and amenities to serve resort patrons and the community.
  • Fire commissioners voted to maximize tax revenues and begin aggressively building their reserve accounts with an eye to replacing aging equipment.
  • Sandra and Richard Procter announced they were closing the doors at Brewsters Fine Foods.
  • The annual craft fair at the community center, benefiting Circle of Care, drew in shoppers looking for unique locally made gifts.
  • After reviewing the results of the Cascadia Rising training exercise that prepared Northwest communities for a major disaster, Point Roberts Emergency Preparedness committee president Virginia Lester concluded “we will really need to fend for ourselves.”
  • It was another slow year at the water district, with only seven new connections.
  • Eliza Olson from the Burns Bog Conservation Society spoke to the Point Roberts Taxpayers’ association about the critical role the bog plays in regional ecology.
  • At least one member of an informal group that meets with local officials on border issues wants like to see more public awareness of the group’s role as a conduit taking border concerns to border brass.
  • The parks district voted to take their maximum allowable tax increase with an eye to possibly adding an administrative position and make improvements to the community center and Baker Field.

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