Monday, December 27, 2010

More on Rural Invalidity

I have not seen the information that Futurewise submitted to the Growth Management Hearings Board for their request for an Order of Invalidity.  I am familiar with their data queries for county development permits, and based on that data, prepared the following paper to outline why the Hearings Board needed to issue an Order of Invalidity.

Rural Development Patterns -- review of County development allowed since 2005

Areas Affected by Order -- this map shows the extent of this action in Whatcom County

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rural Invalidity

In a decision just issued by the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board, development within vast rural areas of Whatcom County no longer enjoys the certainty of land use regulations. 

Under the Growth Management Act, there are very few tools to enforce provisions of the state growth planning law.  Sanctions on tax revenue, limits on access to state grant funds, and an "Order of Invalidity" are the main tools available to force a non-compliant local government to comply with the state law.  Thanks to the efforts of our local chapter of Futurewise and their state office staff, the Hearings Board took the first step in forcing compliance with the law.

The "order of invalidity" is somewhat of a vague term.  By having the Board find that the County's Comprehensive Plan is invalid, it doesn't entitle new development applications to rely on that comprehensive plan for their proposed projects.  Any new project, then, is not considered to be "vested", but could be subject to later changes approved by the state hearings board.  This affects predictability and certainty for development projects.  Banks will likely be leery of loaning funds to development that could be found non-compliant with the Growth Management Act.

What makes this decision even more sweeping is that the Order of Invalidity will likely stay until the Growth Management Hearings Board rules that Whatcom County has completed its rural element review consistent with the Act.  The burden has also now changed from a petitioner demonstrating non-compliance with the Growth Management Act, to Whatcom County demonstrating that they are are compliant.

With the direction of the current Whatcom County Council, it could be years before they find compliance.  Their current proposal is far from being compliant with the Growth Management Act, and if the County Council continues down this path, they will be challenged before the Hearings Board again, and the Order of Invalidity will continue.

And, if Whatcom County continues to be defiant towards the Growth Management Act, it could then see the Board recommend the next step in enforcement:  sanctions on tax revenues received from the state. 

The Whatcom County Council could resolve this issue by passing the recommendations of the Whatcom County Planning Commission last year, at least as an "interim control."  By putting in place the Planning Commission's recommendation, at least this cloud over development in places like Glacier, Hinotes Corner and Point Roberts could be lifted.

The name of this blog says it all: 
Get Whatcom Planning.

For more information about the laws regarding the Order of Invalidity, go to: RCW 36.70A.302
and RCW 36.70A.320.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Here we go again

Here we go again.  It was a comment often heard at County Council meetings from Bob Wiesen, who tragically died this past week.  Bob's voice and passion will be missed.  This blog is dedicated to "Here we go again."

This coming Tuesday, the County Council is scheduled to provide special privileges to development interests, failing to negotiate on the public's behalf.  Here we go again.

The agreements that Whatcom County negotiates rarely provide any benefit and interest to Whatcom County.  The interest is always to the benefit of development.  In 1992, the County negotiated away for 25 years development interests for Governor's Point, allowing a development to be considered in a rural area at three homes per acre! 

Tuesday, the Council will be considering in "executive session", an agreement with Trillium and the City of Blaine to dismiss the petition regarding the West Blaine UGA (Semiahmoo).  The primary purpose of the Agreement appears to be to provide Trillium with benefits that it could not obtain by pursuing its action before the Growth Management Hearings Board (GMHB) because these benefits are outside the scope of the GMHB’s jurisdiction.

One of the benefits to Trillium in the proposed agreement is that it would contractually relieve the development from complying with the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) provision of the County Zoning Code (WCC 20.89.050(3)). 

Trillium submitted a planned unit development and subdivision application prior to the effective date of the urban growth area removing their property from the Blaine UGA.  It has now been one year since that application was filed.  Despite this fact, no progress has been made on completing the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the development.  Whatcom County and Trillium went through a process last winter to select a consultant firm to do the EIS, but Trillium has failed to sign the agreements to pay for the study.

One of the more significant issues in this Trillium agreement is that the County is conceding that the developer doesn't have to get development rights from agricultural lands or the Lake Whatcom Watershed in exchange for this "deal".  I think this move is illegal because the County is negotiating a land use action (zoning code) without public input and SEPA review.  This action can be appealed.  But, more importantly, it is bad public policy. 

In light of the County’s efforts to establish a viable TDR program for Lake Whatcom,  Council members Brenner and Mann have committed to developing such a program, and every individual land use decision that eliminates receiving areas reduces the likelihood that their efforts will be successful.  Furthermore, this is not relief to which the parties would be entitled if Trillium and Blaine were successful before the GMHB.  It appears instead to be inappropriate spot zoning, which provides preferential treatment to an individual landowner rather than providing for the uniform application of countywide land use policies.

The County should insist that Trillium proceed in a timely manner to pay for the EIS.  Instead, the agreement allows the permit application to sit and languish for as long as Trillium wants, making this yet another Governor's Point application.  There are not any provisions in this agreement that require timely completion of the EIS.  The only obligation "negotiated" is a requirement for the County to timely process the application, presumably when Trillium is ready. 

Twenty years from now, when there still isn't an EIS on the project, the public might wander who those negotiators were for the County? 

The second item on the agenda that provides an unfair advantage to development interests is the extension of development permits that are set to expire.  (The Council link to the agenda item is broken.)  It is one thing to consider permit extensions due to the current economic conditions.  But, the people that wrote this ordinance (development attorneys) used the current economic situation to roll back the application of new development regulations, particularly critical areas, to their development applications. 

This action comes at a significant cost to the public interest because the Council is sanctioning even more nonconforming developments that fail to protect water quality, public health and safety.  For example, under this ordinance, a development application first filed in 2004 in the Lake Whatcom Watershed, will now be able to continue to rely on less restrictive wetland buffers than under new standards adopted in 2005.  While vesting provides a recognition to developers' needs for certainty and fairness in planning their developments, similarly, the public need for certainty and fairness expects that when development applications expire that they only be resurrected if they meet the development regulations in effect at the time of a new, complete application.

Here we go again. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Conservation Futures Saved!

A special thanks goes out to all of you that contacted the County Council Office to voice your concern and objections to the proposed raid on the voter-approved Conservation Futures Levy!  Council members Brenner, Mann, Larson and Weimer voted to return the levy to 2009 levels.  Thanks!

So, what's next?

Well, perhaps the County Council and County Executive should begin talking about a strategic plan for how this fund should be managed.  The fund has built up reserves due to neglect -- not due to lack of demand. 
Consideration might be given to managing the fund as proposed in 2001, where 50% of the fund is set aside for purchase of development rights in agricultural areas.  This ordinance was vetoed by Executive Kremen.  Having a dedictated fund would enable the county to bond against the fund and undertake significant purchases, boosting our local economy and farmers.
There are several other opportunities for the County Council and County Executive to manage this fund as the voters intended in 1996 when they approved the levy by 57.7% vote.  Contact the County Council, thanking them for their action, and asking that they get working on a strategic plan for how these funds can be put to use benefitting future generations and our local economy. 

It is time to strategically plan how these funds can best be used.  Inaction should not be an option. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

No "future" for conservation?

This coming Tuesday, the Whatcom County Council is expected to put the finishing touch on huge cutbacks that will affect the future of conservation efforts in Whatcom County for generations to come.   I’m talking about the depletion of the voter-approved Conservation Futures levy, and the County is proposing the second year of reducing the levy by $543,000, a 56% reduction from previous revenue levels.
What is the Conservation Futures levy?
The Washington State Legislature authorized counties to acquire open space, farm and agricultural land and timber land for future generations.  When the development rights were acquired, they were called “conservation futures”, and were used as a tool for both salmon preservation purposes and agricultural protection.  The County was authorized to levy an amount not to exceed 6.25 cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.   
After two decades of significant growth in Whatcom County, resulting in a loss of open space and agricultural land, the Whatcom County Council requested in 1991 that the County Executive (Van Zanten) form a citizen group to explore strategies for the preservation of our natural heritage.  The County Executive appointed a geographically and philosophically diverse task force of individuals, chaired by Craig Cole.
After a year of meetings, involving the public and landowners, the task force delivered their recommendations on June 19, 1991.  Their report was called: ""Preserving a Way of Life": A Natural Heritage Plan for Whatcom County."   (Click here for plan -- 22 mb) The Whatcom County Council quickly passed a Resolution (91-044) endorsing the plan with minor modifications, including that the amount of bonded indebtedness be limited to what can be serviced by the Conservation Futures Levy. 
The Whatcom County Council began implementation by passing the Conservation Futures levy in 1992 (Ord1992-002).  The levy rate was set at the statutory level of 6.25 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.  The levy was used in the first three years to acquire Chuckanut Mountain Recreation Area and Squires Lake Park.
In 1995, following the last “Republican Revolution”, Whatcom County Councilmember Ward Nelson led the effort to repeal the Conservation Futures levy, saying that “people have made known their feelings that property taxation has reached a level that they no longer support.”   The ordinance (Ord95-056) was vetoed by Executive Van Zanten, citing the extensive public dialogue and broad support in developing the Natural Heritage Plan.
The Council then decided (Res1995-072) to put the question to voters on whether or not they supported this level of taxation.  In the fall election of 1996, the voters overwhelmingly approved the conservation effort, with 57.7% supporting the tax.
Through 2001, the fund was used for additional park and open space acquisitions, including Nesset Farm, Overby Farm, Canyon Lake Community Forest, Maple Beach, Stimpson Family Nature Reserve and Lookout Mountain. 
From 2001 through today, the fund has been used to acquire additional park land, such as Nugent's Corner Access, Sunnyside Land, Terrell Creek Heron Rookery, Jensen Family Forest Park, Lily Point Marine Reserve and Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve.
In 2001, the County Council implemented the Purchase of Development Rights program for agricultural lands, tapping into the Conservation Futures fund that had previously been used solely for park purposes.  Later that year, the Council passed an ordinance (Ord2001-032) that would dedicate 50% of those funds to the purchase of development rights of farm and agricultural land.  With a dedicated funding source, Whatcom County could bond against those funds to protect agricultural land from conversion, similar to the concept used for park land acquisition as recommended by the Natural Heritage Task Force. 
The first purchase of development rights in agricultural lands took place in 2004.  Since that time, 671 acres of farmland have been put into a farmland conservation easement, ensuring that this land will continue in perpetuity be used for resource production. (Click here for an excellent overview of the PDR program.)
With such broad based, public support for the levy, why has Executive Kremen and the County Council not supported the Conservation Futures levy?
There are two reasons:  county budgets and weak political support from current elected officials for the need to save 100,000 acres of agricultural land.
When revenue does not increase or keep pace with expenditures, as has taken place for years in Whatcom County, a growing deficit begins to occur.  Large surpluses in reserve funds are now gone, and the County is faced with drastic expenditure reductions.  At the same time, the County Executive has been unwilling to raise property taxes, except, of course, for city residents.   Without raising property taxes, one way to balance the budget gap is on the back of conservation.
Equally driving this issue is the weak support from Executive Kremen and the current County Council regarding the preservation of agricultural land.  When the city and county planning directors jointly recommended to the Growth Management Coordinating Council that all jurisdictions adopt a policy of protecting 100,000 acres of land, Executive Kremen and Sam Crawford sided with the small cities in opposition to this policy. 
Although the County Council would later unanimously pass a resolution (Res2009-040) declaring their intent of maintaining at least 100,000 acres of agricultural land in Whatcom County, along with the recommendations of the 2007 Rural Land Study by the Agricultural Advisory Committee, Chair Crawford has stated publicly that his vote on this resolution was a mistake. 
This concept of acquiring agricultural development rights has consistently been endorsed by conservative and liberal members of our community:  Agricultural Advisory Committee, Purchase of Development Rights Committee, Technical Review Committee, and Whatcom Farm Friends. 
While the County budget revenue issues are serious, the lack of appreciation for the public input on Conservation Futures funding and the economic sense of keeping those funds is disturbing.   Sam Crawford is quoted in the Bellingham Herald as saying that what the money "is acquiring, basically, ...amounts to more expenditures for Whatcom County."   Either Crawford doesn't understand, or is misleading the public, in that 15% of the fund can be used for maintenance and operation of any property acquired with these funds. 
Acquisition of development rights in farm land reinvests our local tax dollars in our local economy.  The farmers that obtain these funds will usually reinvest those funds in their farm, building new structures, buying equipment, or perhaps buying additional land.  Acquisition of development rights in agricultural land requires no maintenance and operation costs, except for a nominal fee which goes to the Whatcom Land Trust to ensure that the terms of the Conservation Easement are being adhered to.   
It makes more economic sense to invest our funds in this PDR program than transferring the tax revenue to ongoing county expenses. 
Please let the County Executive and the County Council know that they should 1) respect the will of the voters that overwhelmingly approved the Conservation Futures levy in 1996 and 2) that the investment in open space and farmland is good for the economy and generations to come.  Ask that the funding be restored to 2009 levels, which is approximately $600,000 below the levy rate authorized by voters in 1996.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Great Questions

Some commenters on the Politics blog raised some great questions about growth.  I'm summarizing them and inviting discussion. 
  1. Is rural development ever economically feasible?
  2. Don't impact fees in a city work as a counter-productive penalty to urban development?
  3. Planning isn't precise, so shouldn't there be room for errors in assumptions?
  4. What part of this discussion is a regional planning issue, versus a local one?
  5. How can we make existing development in the suburbs more cost effective?
  6. How do we hold firm to zoning laws to protect our resource lands for generations to come?
  7. How do we establish laws that ensure an equitable sharing of development costs?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Whatcom County Proposes $1 million tax shift to City Residents

The Whatcom County Executive has proposed a shift in tax levies that results in a significant tax shift to cities.  The Executive's budget message that the proposal is "revenue neutral" and does not rely on tax releases is false.

This coming Tuesday, the Whatcom County Council will be holding two hearings that affect the tax levy for city residents.  The first ordinance increases the General Fund property tax levy by $1 million.  The Executive calls this "revenue neutral" because he is proposing to decrease the Road Fund also by $1 million.  However, the Road  Fund is collected only in the unincorporated areas.  Thus, the increase in the General Fund property tax levy is being borne by city property owners, while county residents get a tax cut.

The lack of clarity and transparency in this budget gimmick is disconcerting.  The impact of the tax increase on city residents is not at all transparent.  In an effort to get to what it would cost a city resident, the Whatcom County Assessor was contacted to ask what the levy rates might be if this tax shift was done.  The response, received on November 1st, is that the "Levy rates cannot be calculated until budgets are set and valuations are certified."

How is the public supposed to provide public input on the ordinance this coming Tuesday that is advertised as an "Ordinance authorizing the levy of taxes for County and State purposes in Whatcom County for the year 2011"? 

The ordinance available to the public says that the "levies shall be fixed per "Exhibit A" which shall be prepared by the County Assessor, and attached and incorporated herein by reference."  On page four of the ordinance, it says:  "Exhibit A and B will be available after the first of the year 2011."

Thanks to the effort of Councilmember Ken Mann, we found that there are levy rates that are being used for this budget proposal, just not available for the public to see.  Councilmember Mann provided the following answer to my inquiry:

"In 2010 the levy rates were 1.02054 for general fund and 1.33610 for road fund.

"If there was a levy shift, the general fund would be 1.06042 and road fund 1.25771.

"For a 250,000 house in county, the tax goes from 255+334 to 265+314, for a $10 decrease.

"For a 250,000 house in city, the tax goes from 255 + 0, to 265+0, for a $10increase."  (Ken Mann, November 4, 2010)

Based on this information, I have completed rough calculations[1] as to how this tax shift affects cities in general.   

Total Assessed Valuation
% of County Tax Base
Cost of Tax Shift to City

$ 486,385

The second ordinance being heard on Tuesday is about limiting the 2011 General Fund Property Tax Levy.  This ordinance makes clear that the County general levy is increased by $1 million, which is a percentage increase of 3.9% from the previous year.

With the passage of Initiate 747, there are only two ways for a jurisdiction to increase property taxes by more than one percent (1%).   If the local jurisdiction has taken less than the maximum increase in the past, they have what is called "banked capacity".  The other way to increase property taxes is to do a levy lid lift through a vote.

The County Executive, in his proposed budget, acknowledged that the "General Fund levy will increase by $1 million, using banked capacity."  (2011-2012 Executive's Recommended Budget, Volume 1 - Page 28)  Under state law, the public does not have to vote on this use of banked capacity. 

But, early in 2010, the County Council passed an ordinance (Ord. 2010-025)  that placed local limits on the use of banked capacity.   This ordinance stated "the County Council recognizes that the will of the people shall be considered before property taxes are levied or increased."  It goes on to state that the County General Fund "be limited in....increases each year to a maximum amount equal to the previous year's tax levy plus one percent...any proposed tax levy increase to provide revenue for a future County budget year cycle, beyond the amount specified by this locally-imposed limitation, shall be put to a non-binding advisory vote of the people of Whatcom County by means of a ballot measure to be voted upon in a Countywide November General Election."

The ordinance goes on to say that the "capacity to increase these levies beyond this one percent limitation through accumulation or "banked capacity"...shall be implemented in current or future assessments only after the non-binding advisory vote of the people of Whatcom County."

Councilmember Mann informed me in his communication that council members believe that the final clause in this local ordinance is considered to allow this transfer.  It reads that "revenue neutral transfers between existing levies shall be exempt from the provisions of this ordinance."

A 3.9% increase in the General Fund levy that results in increased taxes from city property owners of approximately $486,000, is not revenue neutral.  The only ones benefitting from this proposal are the unincorporated property owners.  City residents are getting a higher bill and less services. 

Especially Bellingham residents.  Maybe that is the point.

[1] The  total assessed valuation is from 2010 County GIS data, and includes both taxable and non-taxable properties.  Adjustments to the valuation would need to be made to include only taxable properties.  For general purposes of tax shift burden, this analysis provides that information.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rural Moratorium -- Too Little and Too Late?

Last night, the Whatcom County surprisingly passed an emergency ordinance that prohibits land divisions less than 10 acres in size in those rural areas proposed by the Planning Commission to be downzoned in October last year.  Good job, Whatcom County Council!

Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the question is whether this is too little and/or too late?  Let's start with the Too Late question first. 

As documented in the Review of Growth, 3,666 new housing units were approved in rural areas from 2000 - 2008 (Table 2).  1,109 of those housing units were within the Lake Whatcom watershed!  Ouch!  (Now I know why water quality and the traffic on Lakeway has declined over the years.) This was 26% of the county's residential growth during that time period. 

Now, the worst part is that Whatcom County's inaction to comply with the Growth Management Act has created a ticking time bomb for rural development potential.  In that same report, Table 9 shows that there were 14,561 legal lots already created in rural areas and another 3,928 lots in resource lands (mostly agriculture).  These are legal lots that are sitting vacant, waiting for that new McMansion.  The legal lots already created in rural and resource lands of Whatcom County could accommodate 41,230 people!  This is 74% of the growth anticipated in Whatcom County in the next 20 years!

Now, hang with me for a second, because it gets worse.  The paragraph above were just the existing vacant, legal lots that were already created by filing of a short plat or plat at the county auditor.  Now, what is the potential for new growth?  Good question!

Another 6,974 lots were estimated to be able to be created in rural areas, and another 1,256 lots in resource lands.  So, add existing lots plus new potential together, and the Whatcom County rural and resource lands could accommodate 73,954 new people.  Only 18,352 people MORE than what the entire county is expected to grow to in the next 20 years.  No need for urban growth areas after all! 

This ordinance is simply window dressing.  It affects very few people.  Developments like Governor's Point already have 25 year vesting agreements approved by the county, so they aren't affected.  Since 2005 when the Growth Management Hearings Board found Whatcom County out of compliance with the amount of rural development allowed in rural areas (validated by the Supreme Court in 2009), there has not been any discernable slow down in rural permit activity

This emergency ordinance was an attempt by the County Council to "save face" with the Growth Management Hearings Board that provided them with six months to complete the rural element.  During this time period, the County Council has shown no interest in really limiting rural development as required by the Growth Management Act. 

Council member Knutzen says he "doesn't know if it (one acre lots) will pass the laugh test before the Hearings Board."  Council members continuously state their views contrary to Growth Management:

·          "...this concept of the built environment on July 1, 1990 is a flawed way to do this."  (7-13-10)
·          "...harm as few people as possible..." (7-13-10)
·          "'s important to draw a line in the sand...recommending the one-acre option, and not have it as a LAMIRD."  (7-13-10)
·          "...a majority that says they are okay with two-acre zoning as being rural."  (7-13-10) 
·          "Traditional Rural densities have ranged from three residences per acre up to one residence per ten acres."  (10-26-10)

Too late?  You be the judge.   Too little is another conversation.  Stay tuned.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Caitac Application

For years, Caitac USA has been fighting to have their property at the intersection of Smith and Guide Meridian added to the Urban Growth Area.  Time and time again, the County Council rejected those requests.  Caitac, plus their allies in Jack Petree and Bob Wiesen, challenged those decisions to the Growth Management Hearings Board -- and lost.  For a copy of the Board decision, click here. 

Caitac is now wanting to stop the fighting, and move forward with their development plans.  Nice trick, but time to raise the shades on this maneuver. 

Caitac has agreed to settle their latest challenge to the UGA decision last fall (Ord. 2009-071) if the County would do just three things:
  • Tell the County Planning Commission to have a hearing on a rezone request that doubles the density of their property from one home per ten acres to one home per five acres.  Click here for a copy of that application.
  • Tell the County Planning Commission to have a hearing on a rezone request that puts a Tourist Commercial designation on their property.  Click here for a copy of that application. 
  • Agree to docket their UGA amendment for consideration in 2011.
One of my biggest concerns with the Caitac proposal is the question about urban growth:  when will it end, and when will rural areas and resource lands begin?  Why can't there be a line drawn that says "no more."  Maybe Caitac should be within the UGA, using Smith and Guide as the northerly entrance to Bellingham.

Look at the land use map for the Guide when you formulate that answer in your own mind.  If Caitac comes in, why not the other three corners of the Smith and Guide?  There already is development on two of those corners (gas station and tavern).  Then, look north, and see that the commercial and industrial zoning is almost continous all the way to Wiser Lake.

For those that think Growth Management is just about aesthetics, think again.  If not for all the rural development that Whatcom County allowed in the past twenty years, the taxpayers would not have had to put up $175 million for widening of the Guide.  Sure, some improvements were needed for safety purposes.  But, widening to five lanes was only needed because of the sprawl that the County allowed during this time.

Caitac's current proposal to do Tourist Commercial is suspect.  The Growth Management Act (36.70A.070(5)(d)) requires the following regarding tourist commercial designations:
The intensification of development on lots containing, or new development of, small-scale recreational or tourist uses, including commercial facilities to serve those recreational or tourist uses, that rely on a rural location and setting, but that do not include new residential development. A small-scale recreation or tourist use is not required to be principally designed to serve the existing and projected rural population. Public services and public facilities shall be limited to those necessary to serve the recreation or tourist use and shall be provided in a manner that does not permit low-density sprawl.
Exactly how does the Caitac proposal intend to fulfill this requirement when they have a) simultaneously submitted a proposal for a residential rezone in order to cluster homes into dense urban pattern and b) have proposed an agreement that will consider their proposal for a UGA amendment? 

Whatcom County has not completed the process of adopting criteria for designation of these rural areas of more intense rural development (LAMIRD) as ordered by the Supreme Court.  Until they do so, Caitac is basing an application on a comprehensive plan found out of compliance by the Supreme Court. 

WCC 20.90.064(2) requires that these rezone requests include a way to transfer desnity from a sending area to this proposal.  There is no proposal as part of the development application. 
(2) Rezone requests to increase residential density that have been submitted pursuant to this chapter shall be required to transfer development from a designated TDR sending area to obtain the requested density as a condition of approval.
(a) In order to obtain the requested density, one development right shall be transferred for every three additional dwelling units obtained through rezones within a designated urban growth area. The county council may modify this requirement if a development agreement has been entered into that specifies the elements of development within the rezone area. The development agreement should include, but not be limited to, affordable housing, density, allowed uses, bulk and setback standards, open space, parks, landscaping, buffers, critical areas, transportation and circulation, streetscapes, design standards and mitigation measures.
Exactly how is this proposal considered "small scale", and how does it rely on a rural location, and how will public facilities and services for this development not permit low-density sprawl.  I think that Caitac, even with their new path, will have a long and bumpy road ahead of them.

It is time that they work through a public process to address these issues.  Then, Caitac USA might have a development plan that the community will accept.

UPDATE:  The County posted a development agreement proposal on the web site today (10-19).  View it here.  My favorite line:  "Caitac shall not be required to pay any mitigation fees or impact fees beyond what Whatcom County requires upon the effective date of this Agreement."  Guess what?  Whatcom County has no fees.  No promise for transfer of development rights for the rezone. No agreement that they pay mitigation fees -- fire, schools, parks, transportation.  What do you think of that proposal?  Contact the County Council, County Executive and PDS with your comments.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010


This blog will focus primarily on regional planning issues related to growth management in Whatcom County.  My intention for this blog will be to inform, educate and provide you, the reader, with my perspective as a professional planner living here.  I will keep you informed on upcoming issues and events, how to participate, and encourage substantive discussion about issues important to the quality of life in our community.

Anyone that wishes to comment on topics is welcome, but at this time I intend to review comments before they are posted to remove the absurd. 

To be clear, since I currently work for the city of Bellingham, I will not comment on any issues affecting the city directly as it would be a conflict of interest for me.