Saturday, April 9, 2011

What a Tangled Web

Somebody asked me today how long it will be before the County adopts the new Rural Element of its Comprehensive Plan. Simple question, right?


As the Herald reported today, the County has suddenly realized that it needs to send the Rural Element back to the Planning Commission.

(The new Planning Commission. Only 2 out of the 9 Planning Commissioners who originally spent the greater part of 2009 holding work sessions and hearings on the Rural Element are still on the Planning Commission. So this is all new to 7 members.)

Anyway -- although the County has had almost a year and a half to think about it, the fact that County Council revisions have to go back to the Planning Commission apparently slipped the County's collective mind until now. (The first person to raise this issue in public comments, I'm pretty sure, was one of the bloggers on this site, and it wasn't the one who is a lawyer. Thirty years of planning experience mean something, I guess.)

Having "suddenly" realized this fact, which was cleverly hidden in a part of state law that was adopted in 1963, the County is in something of a bind.

You see, on March 29, the County had a deadline to meet. The state Growth Management Hearings Board said that it had to adopt a Rural Element that complies with state law by that date. As previously noted, the Council decided not to adopt anything.

The day after its deadline, the County applied to extend the deadline. That kind of approach doesn't tend to work so well for my college students who try it, but the County must not feel like it has to live under the same harsh rules that we apply to 18 - to 22-year-olds. The County, the Hearings Board, and Futurewise will thrash all of this out on Thursday, April 14.

The County asked for an extension until May 10. Its request, the Board's response, and Futurewise's response are all here, thanks to the Herald (Jared Paben did a great job of getting information out to the public).

That May 10 deadline might have worked except for one thing: that pesky Planning Commission hearing.

Hmmm. Now what? More delay? More extensions? More staff time and effort, paid for by the taxpayers? Or will the Board finally be fed up with Whatcom County's almost comical inability to adopt a plan?

Stay tuned. We should know by Tax Day. Perhaps the Tea Party will protest the waste of County resources represented by this seemingly endless effort not to comply with state law.


  1. This whole thing is beginning to sound like a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. It would be funny if it weren't real, with so much at stake, and so much of our money being wasted.

  2. When the planning commission, in its original examination of the issues you address, failed to wait, as then commissioner Mann suggested, for the Supreme Court decision impacting the rural element it fatally flawed the process.

    Changes made by the council were informed by the decision, the planning commission decision was not.

    A real problem still exists. The court remanded the decision to the Hearings Board for a reexamination of the decision based on the Court's findings in Thurston County and Goldstar. Until the Board does its job and reexamines its oringinal decision the process remains screwed up.

  3. Gilbert and Sullivan opera sounds great. "I've got a little list, I've got a little list"

  4. Jack, you keep making this comment and it keeps not making sense.

    What do you think that the Board means when it says that it has scheduled a compliance hearing on rural densities? "Rural densities" is the issue that was remanded. The County did not present its old rural element for the Board to review, so of course the Board didn't review it. And now the Board is waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the Council to finish its work.

  5. The Supreme Court decision only reaffirmed the Thurston County decision that was already made about bright lines. No surprises, and no changes from what the Planning Commission viewed as rural: 10 acre lots (which is what the public overwhelmingly believed was the minimum rural density).

  6. Ha Ha. The public record in Whatcom County CLEARLY doesn't think 1 acre lots is rural. Maybe a David only record. What a joke.

  7. er 10 acre lots.

  8. Not that Anonymous's content-free post merits a response, but --

    the only time that Whatcom County asked the general public its opinion, most people viewed 10 acres as the minimum for rural lot sizes. That's the public record that David is referring to.