A community group researching the potential for Birch Bay to become its own city has officially formed as the Birch Bay Incorporation Association.
Over 100 people packed into Christ the King North Bay Community Church to learn more about the association and participate in its first election November 15. The informal election established the association, set the city boundaries for a feasibility study, and elected 15 steering committee representatives.
The hour-long meeting drew a mix of longtime incorporation supporters and new spectators, some of whom voiced opposition to incorporation and the group’s decision-making.
The latest attempt for incorporation began this spring after Birch Bay resident Matt Berry distributed a self-governance survey to the community. Residents who indicated on the survey that they wanted to be involved started meeting monthly in June.
The association is considering applying for grants and asking Whatcom County officials for funding to pay for a feasibility study on Birch Bay incorporation. The feasibility study would provide data on city operating costs and tax revenues that the association would use to determine if it wants to move forward in the lengthy incorporation process.
“Tonight we don’t have to come to an agreement whether this would be in our best interest or not,” Berry said. “All we have to decide is that we want to ask questions, get better data and spend more time discussing this with anyone who might be affected by this.”
Anyone living, working or owning property within the proposed city limits was allowed to vote in the election as long as they were an association member. Berry asked attendees to put their hands in the air to signify if they were for or against each proposal. People in the audience then cast their votes for the steering committee on paper ballots that were counted and certified by four Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce representatives.
The incorporation boundaries for the feasibility study will follow the Birch Bay urban growth area, but could later change if Birch Point or south of Point Whitehorn residents wanted to join.
The association approved 15 people to join its steering committee, while seven others applied who either did not receive enough votes or did not live within the boundaries. Steering committee representatives will serve one-year terms and meet monthly, while the regular association members will meet quarterly and vote on important decisions.
The steering committee representatives are Lisa Guthrie, Matt Berry, Michael Stringam, Brian Bell, Chuck Kinzer, Caprice Pine, Sharman Burnam, Jonathan Mallahan, Lisa Fisher, Barney Yorkston, Cecil Robinson, Jason Polverari, Patrick Alesse, Wayne Kortlever and James (Bob) Aiken. The representatives vary from new to life-long residents.
Some steering committee representatives said during their candidate speeches that they were undecided whether incorporation was a good thing, but wanted to be on the committee to gather more information.
“I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or a bad idea but I know the only way to find out is to get involved,” Lisa Fisher said during her statement.
Wayne Kortlever said he was opposed to Birch Bay becoming a city, while Caprice Pine and Cecil Robinson said they were on the fence. Chuck Kinzer, Sharman Burnam and Brian Bell said they wanted to serve on the steering committee to ensure it gathered more data. Barney Yorkston said he wasn’t in favor of incorporation but was willing to keep an open mind.
Other representatives, such as Lisa Guthrie, supported incorporation.
“Right now we’re allowing people who don’t live here and don’t really care about our flavor of life to determine how we grow,” Guthrie said. “They’re already pushing density and development on us. We want to have a say in what that looks like, how we move forward and how we keep Birch Bay, the Birch Bay that we all love.”
Birch Bay has had several attempts to incorporate over the years, but only an attempt in 1992 went for a vote. If Birch Bay incorporates, it would be the fourth largest city in Whatcom County. Everson was the last city to incorporate in Whatcom County in 1929, and Spokane Valley was the last city to incorporate in Washington state in 2003.
The steering committee will hold its first meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 6 at Christ the King North Bay Community Church, 4895 Birch Bay Lynden Road. The meeting will be open to the public and streamed on Zoom. The association’s next quarterly meeting will be held in February.
Incorporatebirchbay.com has a contact form for people to register for the Birch Bay Incorporation Association’s email list and will have the Zoom link for the first steering committee meeting.
“Based on feedback and what we approved in the bylaws, our mission is to be gathering information if incorporation ever goes to a vote,” Berry said.
This article was updated November 22 to change the Birch Bay Incorporation Association Steering Committee's meeting date, which changed after the article was published.
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