Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Growth Management Hearings Board Finds the County Out of Compliance

The Outside Man has too many irons in the fire to blog right now. Rightfully, this blog should be his, becasue this case is named for him.

The Hearings Board just issued a decision concluding that the County Council's decision to expand Ferndale's Urban Growth Area violated state law. The Urban Growth Area is too big, and Ferndale wasn't able to show that it had planned adequately for sewer and fire service.

Here are the first few paragraphs: "In sizing the Ferndale UGA, the County improperly relied both on a market supply factor and 'local circumstances'. As the market supply factor already includes and accounts for 'local circumstances', the County thereby over-estimated its residential lands needs and over-sized the Ferndale UGA.

Approving the Ferndale UGA in the absence of adopted fire and sewer plans demonstrates Whatcom County.s failure to be guided by [the Growth Management Act].

In the absence of capital facilities plans for fire and wastewater, it cannot be said that the Ferndale UGA has 'adequate existing public facility and service capacities to serve such development,' and the Board finds this to be a violation of [the Growth Management Act].

I just read the spin on the decision in the Bellingham Herald. Jori Burnett, Ferndale's Planning Director, is a very nice guy. He's currently helping a class that I teach, with no concern for politics and solely in the interest of the community. But he stated that the decision "isn't a victory for petitioners," and that's just, well, spin. To put it charitably.

Of course, the Hearings Board could have found the County more out of compliance on more issues. But the petitioners won on the big issue -- that is, the oversizing of Ferndale's UGA.

It's too bad that the County and Ferndale followed this path. A lot of time and money were spent on attorneys and hearings, when that time and money are desperately needed for many, many other things.

But I agree with one thing that Jori said, and it gave me hope. He said that the decision is a "victory for good planning." I hope that this decision inspires Ferndale and the County to buckle down and do some good planning.

David Stalheim discussed the issues on the Herald website, in a response to another effort from Ferndale to put a smiley face on the decision (Sam Taylor is Ferndale's City Clerk). The link is here, and it's worth a read.


  1. Hey Jean do you live in Ferndale and how many Ferndale city planning meetings have you attended. Who was in charge of planning for Bellingham in 2009/10?
    Just curious. Thanks

  2. "Hey anonymous" (my students aren't allowed to communicate that disrepectfully, by the way, but perhaps you're younger than 18).

    Do you live in Whatcom County? Whatcom County was found to be out of compliance. Everyone who lives in Whatcom County has an interest. If only because we pay taxes, and therefore we all pay for these overt blunders. In the short term. Without even thinking about the long run.

    As someone commented on an earlier post, if you want to talk about "who was in charge of planning in Bellingham," start your own blog. It's not relevant to this post.

  3. Right on Jean! Where in the world do these folks get the idea if you live in a town in Whatcom County you don't live in the county? Thank you to the people who pursued this in court.

    Shannon P.