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BURLINGTON, WA-Burlington’s mayor, Roger A. Tjeerdsma, tells that each day 30,000 to 40,000 cars carrying eager shoppers make their way to his town’s retail stores. But the booming business comes at the price of major traffic congestion—and developers eager to participate in the town’s good fortune are being required to chip in big bucks to help solve the problem.

While it may only have an estimated 7,000 residents, Burlington is a regional, retail hub. From its well-known outlet center for national chains to a growing population of car dealerships and its 423,852 sf enclosed Cascade Mall, the retail industry here is hopping.

Situated at the intersection of State Highway 2 and Interstate 5, the town draws visitors from the whole of Skagit County, a predominantly rural area. Others come from those traffic traveling north and south between Seattle, 60 miles to the south, and Vancouver, B.C., a similar distance to the north.

Tjeerdsma says there currently seems to be no end to the inflow of new businesses and developments. “There are several more car dealerships wanting to come in. We’ve got a lot more retail, more residential and more industrial projects lining up,” he says. He attributes a large part of the growth to the availability of land here and the city’s willingness to work with developers. “If a developer has a problem, I’ll personally walk them right through every step,” says Burlington’s mayor.

But Tjeerdsma acknowledges the traffic problems that have come on the heels of such hearty growth and the need for the city to act. One recent response was the city council’s amendment to Burlington’s comprehensive transportation plan requiring developers to put in alternate accesses to new projects. “The roads get all jammed up. And, when something big (a new business or development) wants to come in, we have to plan for different routes. So they (the developers) have got to work with us to come up with solutions.”

Another avenue of developer assistance comes in the form of infrastructure improvements as part of the cost of doing business in Burlington. A prime example came this summer as Costco Wholesale Corp. was putting in a new store at 1725 S. Burlington Blvd. As a condition to receiving its permits, the wholesale retailer had to pony up $1.5 million for road improvements at the George Hopper Rd./Interstate 5 interchange. Wanting to be fair to all, however, the town is conducting a study to see how other businesses are benefiting from the improvements. And, depending upon the outcome, Burlington may reimburse Costco for a portion of its costs.

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