A Visual Guide to the Point Roberts Special District

The PRCAC held a special meeting on Saturday March 9 to consider proposed changes to Whatcom County Code 20.72, the Point Roberts Special District. But what is 20.72, anyway? You can read the county code here, or get the gist from our visual guide below.

These apply to the whole Point:

In the images below, zoned areas with special permissions or restrictions under the code are shown in the outlined regions along with the specific permitted or prohibited activities. (Drawings are approximate - the county zoning map is linked to below.)


Resort Commercial:

Small Town Commercial:

Most of the current action has to do with the Small Town Commercial zone. Some people claim that restrictions in this area are holding back economic development. The current focus started with recognition that parking the Potty Wagon truck at Auntie Pam's when not in use violated the code. Here's where that zone is and what those restrictions are:

A few design restrictions:

Our purpose here is not to point fingers at any particular business or code violation, but rather to illustrate how universally ignored some of the code provisions are.

The PRCAC Special Meeting

Seventeen people attended the meeting on March 9 and provided some initial input to the committee. The committee has about five months to provide recommendations to the county.

On one side, people maintain that the entire special district should be thrown out. On the other, people want a constructive vision. But no progress can be made without a clear definition of what the specific problems are first. We believe the first step should be to identify all the specific issues with specific provisions.

To those who claim the code is holding back economic progress, what specific provisions are doing this, and how? What specific provisions conflict with the ability to support essential services, and how? What specific provisions conflict with economic development, and how?

The community will have many opportunities to provide input in the coming weeks. But we wonder how useful it will be to update the code when it's enforced so rarely and so selectively.


Again, here is the full code language. What we present above is necessarily a simplification. The devil is truly in the details, and properly interpreting the code provisions requires referring to the actual language and to any other parts of the county code that interact with it.

The Point Roberts Sub-Area Plan is a comprehensive planning document written by Point Roberts people that describes the major issues and objectives driving the code. It was first published in 2001 and most recently updated in 2017.

In addition to the design restrictions in 20.72, which also include height and setback limits, there are also separate Point Roberts Design Guidelines. 20.72 incorporates these by reference: "All commercial and institutional use structures shall be consistent with the Point Roberts design guidelines, which are herein adopted by reference as an addendum to this chapter."

The Point Roberts zoning map is a complete map of zoning on the Point. The zones we show above are just the ones with special provisions under 20.72.

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