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.  


  1. David,

    Exactly how will Caitac’s development get water?

    If they want city water, the property must be annexed. If the city annexes the property, will it be stuck with a development agreement between Caitac and the county?

    Why would the city annex property that won’t be subject to impact fees?

    Seems like getting water and establishing a development agreement with the county are mutually exclusive.

    What am I missing?

  2. Larry,

    Regarding water, if you look at their environmental checklist (which is sorely lacking for any analysis), they say something about a well for their public water. I know that there is a main water line in the Guide, and likely up Cordata, that provides city water, but that would be available only upon annexation based on current city policy.

    The water that goes up the Guide serves a water association in that area. Whether Caitac can get access to that water or not -- I don't know. It depends on what the water service boundary is for the Caitac property.

    Whatcom County is responsible for what is called the Coordinated Water System Plan. PDS coordinates those plans, and with all the recent staff cutbacks, I'm not sure who is doing that work. It was Erin Osborn, so you might want to check with her or Tyler Schroeder to see what water purveyor is designated for the Caitac property.

    If they want city water, they need to go to the city. Obviously, Caitac is trying to get something done with the County at this time. If the development is already constructed on wells, private water association and septic, then there are no impact fees that would be required at all.

    The city, if it so chose to annex the property (it must be put into the UGA before annexation is even allowed), then the city would be able to charge impact fees only on new development.

  3. Thanks David “Outside Man” for the info.

    The thought of an 80-room hotel being served by a well seems unusual. Is that even doable? I’d hate to be stuck in the hotel shower when the well runs dry. Even worse, what would the septic system for an 80-room hotel look like? Who would want a home near that drain field?

    Seems like a badly botched plan, but considering the players, who can be surprised?

    The city and county are in desperate need of interlocal agreements on impact fees to ensure things like this don’t go through on the public’s dime. Even better, the county needs to establish impact fees in the rural areas and a separate scale for LAMIRD’s or other areas of more intense development.

    Externalizing costs on the public is so passé.