PRCAC to conduct total review of zoning rules

By Meg Olson

Whatcom County Planning and Development Services (PDS) has put the enforcement of code violations at 1480 Gulf Road on hold for a year to give the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) time to consider wholesale changes to land use rules in Point Roberts.

“Making good land use regulation decisions must involve thorough community engagement and discussion and that process takes time,” county planning and development director Mark Personius wrote to David Gellatly, the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce representative to PRCAC in a February 6 email. “In this case, a single compliance date should not rush the time it takes for the Point Roberts community to carefully consider potential changes to the development regulations that shape and affect the community.”

The county had given Lorne Nielson, the owner of the Gulf Road property, until February 13 to remove all vehicles parked unlawfully on the property. Current county code prohibits vehicle storage in the Small Town Commercial (STC) zone along Gulf Road. The large parking lot at that address has been used by The Potty Wagon company to store vehicles when not in use, and by local resident George Wright to park containers for storage. In a letter to the Point Roberts Registered Voters Association board, Nielson said he had four businesses, including U-Haul and recreational vehicle rental agency Jucy, interested in operating from the location but are unable to under current regulations. Nielson asked that the association support his request to have the parking restrictions on Gulf Road removed.

At the January 31 PRCAC meeting, Gellatly made a motion to immediately remove all prohibited uses from the STC zone along Gulf Road, including mini-storage, animal kennels, vehicle equipment storage and repair, as well as additional RV parks. The motion was tabled until the February meeting at which three of the five seats on PRCAC will have new appointees in place.

With a 12-month hold on enforcement activities, Gellatly said PRCAC would be able to “establish a critical path that involves our collective and thoughtful text amendments presented to PDS in a time frame that allows staff to present to the planning commission for consideration so that it may be forwarded to council.”

At their regular meeting on February 13, the Point Roberts Taxpayers’ Association board voted 6-0 in opposition to prematurely eliminating section 204 of the Point Roberts Special District (Whatcom County Code 20.72) which prohibits certain uses along Gulf Road, in favor of completing a comprehensive review.

“This is Point Roberts’ chance to do what we need overall,” said Steve Wolf, the association’s new representative to PRCAC. “Some people are looking at throwing it all out, others are looking for things to fix and some are saying we need vision first. Vision should come first and code changes come last, not the other way around.”

Association member Jennifer Urquhart said the elimination of restrictions along Gulf Road was a stop gap measure to the situation that there is no land available with appropriate zoning for some of the community’s commercial enterprises.

“For example, we need to have general commercial or light industrial land and we don’t,” she said, land that could accommodate recreational vehicle companies wanting to locate on the Point.

“We need to be taking a holistic approach. It’s not just about Gulf Road,” she concluded.

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