PRCAC to review zoning changes

By Meg Olson

The Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) has scheduled a series of meetings specifically to jump start a review of county zoning codes specific to Point Roberts.

“Let’s get on with this,” said David Gellatly, who represents the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce on the committee.

In May 2017, Whatcom County Council approved a PRCAC recommendation to eliminate the Point Roberts Character Plan and merge its design guidelines into Chapter 20.72 of the county zoning code, the Point Roberts Special District. A purge of that section of code had always been the second half of the PRCAC plan.

“We’ve had every PRCAC meeting since then consumed by garbage and the purge never followed the merge,” Gellatly said. The first meeting, scheduled for December 4 at 6 p.m., will be “to begin the discussion so we can get input from the member organizations and the at-large members to see how they want to proceed.”

The meetings were spurred by recent county enforcement action at 1480 Gulf Road. Three violation notices were issued for vehicles stored on the building’s parking lot. The special district specifically prohibits commercial storage of vehicles along Gulf Road. Three containers, the Potty Wagon’s trucks and RVs from the Jucy rental agency were alleged to have violated that provision.

In a letter to the Point Roberts Registered Voters Association, property owner Lorne Nielson asked the organization to support his efforts to remove the restrictions against vehicle storage on Gulf Road properties. “We have four businesses that are interested in operating from this location but are currently not allowed,” he wrote, which include Jucy, the Potty Wagon, Point Roberts Mini Mobile Storage and U-Haul.

Nielson also owns Point Roberts Mini Storage at 1573 Gulf Road, which is similarly restricted by Gulf Road-specific provisions in the county code that prohibit storage operations. The existing business is operating as a non-conforming use but cannot be expanded despite the existing infrastructure having been designed for a second phase of buildings.

Current regulations reflect a vision for Gulf Road that is unrealistic, Nielson said. “They were kind of hoping it would be a walkable area with little gift shops but I don’t see that happening,” he said.

Many of the Gulf Road commercial properties have significant wetlands issues and struggle with permitting and septic requirements, Nielson said, resulting in slow and scattered commercial development.Fewer restrictions to commercial development will allow businesses the flexibility they need to make it work in Point Roberts, Nielson said.

Otherwise, like the organic clothing and home products company Rawganique, they may choose to leave the community. “They would have been a great business for Point Roberts,” he said. “What they are doing in Blaine is really great.”

Gellatly said they had scheduled a follow-up meeting on December 11 at 6 p.m. to continue the discussion of what potential changes to the Point Roberts Special District PRCAC would be recommending the county enact. “I think we can accomplish something that will be good for the community and good for economic development,” he said.

Another PRCAC meeting has been scheduled for December 6 at 6 p.m. on a different topic: the selection of at-large PRCAC members. Currently the five-person committee is comprised of three representatives from the chamber of commerce, voters and taxpayer’s associations along with two at-large members appointed by county executive Jack Louws.

PRCAC chair Jeff Christopher had requested an election process be developed for the selection of the at-large members and received the go-ahead from Louws.

“Ultimately, the county executive will be the one that appoints, but this is an opportunity to generate some interest from the community in participating in the decision making and not just the discussion,” Gellatly said.

The format for the selection process will be discussed and interested candidates are welcome to come forward on December 6.

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