Road to ‘Nowhere’
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
When governments work together for the benefit of everyone, good things happen. That was definitely the case with the Lummi Nation and the City of Ferndale as we worked on a deal to vacate a section of road to make way for retail development.
It’s a literal road to nowhere that serves no one, an unused section of Kope Road along I-5 that runs through the Lummi Nation’s land and currently dead-ends at a chain-link fence. But this road will bring jobs, retail development opportunities and visitors that will grow our region’s economy.
The Lummi Nation petitioned the City of Ferndale to vacate this unused section of Kope Road and, on June 17, the Ferndale City Council approved. Thanks to good faith conversations between the Lummi Nation and Ferndale, the permits have been finalized, and now we can begin construction. By continuing to work together, we will realize the economic potential of this project for everyone’s benefit.
The road vacation will make way for a travel center along I-5 that will house a convenience store and gas station, and will have enough space for at least four additional businesses, such as coffee shops, restaurants and other retail stores. It’s a natural fit for this property right off the Slater Road exit, which has an annual traffic count of more than 20 million along this section of I-5. This new development will not only awaken what’s currently a dead end space, but it will also encourage drivers and tourists to visit our area, increasing the amount of retail sales tax revenue that will be shared with the city and county.
We have worked in partnership with the cities of Ferndale and Bellingham to grow the economy of Whatcom County. Lummi Nation is the second-largest employer in Whatcom County, and many of our employees are not tribal members. Currently, we are responsible for the creation of 5,000 local jobs. We also engage many vendors from our area to service both our Lummi government and commercial enterprises like the Silver Reef Casino Resort and Lummi Bay Markets. Many of our trusted vendors are from our surrounding communities, especially Ferndale. The members of the surrounding communities are helping to grow and sustain our economy, and for this, we are grateful.
Increasing economic growth is just one piece of it. It’s also important to us to give back to the surrounding communities. Each year, we provide community grants to tribal and non-tribal organizations, from funding school property improvements and literacy programs, to supporting programs serving veterans and elders. Just last month, Lummi Nation awarded more than $850,000 in grants to local organizations, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish and Whatcom counties, Ferndale Golden Eagles Booster Club, Long Live the Kings, and Whatcom County Hospice Foundation, to name a few. Additionally, the Lummi Nation fully endorsed and supported the Ferndale School Bond as we believe this will be beneficial to the future of all our people. During the inclement weather this past winter, the Lummi Nation opened its doors at the Silver Reef Casino Resort to all people in Whatcom County that lost power and needed a warm place to stay. It is our responsibility to take care of each other and our residents, and it is our undeniable duty to give back.
Economic development in this area will benefit not only the Lummi Nation, but also the City of Ferndale, and Whatcom County as well. The property is already zoned for retail and commercial use. Once the site is developed, retail sales tax from every sale will boost local tax revenues. This is a great opportunity for much-needed economic development for all who call this area home.
The Lummi Nation and the City of Ferndale worked together to develop this site for the maximum benefit for everyone. To generate top retail tax revenues for the City, this unused section of Kope Road first had to be vacated. Now that the road vacation is approved, we can begin construction and take the next steps to creating jobs and attracting visitors to our area.
By working together, we will transform this dead-end road to grow our community’s economy.
Jeremiah (“Jay”) Julius is chairman of the Lummi Nation